Managers: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Part V)

Emperor in his new clothes

The Truth Is in the Trenches – The Good

Most of us remember the short tale by Hans Christian Anderson about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that he doesn’t see any suit of clothes until a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

So true with executive managers, especially with those who only listen only to their executive staff. We see it all too often where executives are distant from what is ‘really’ going on.

Before reaching management myself, I fell several levels below an executive of a service division. Ron was a true leader. He dressed the part, talked the part and inspired us every day with his leadership skill.

Every time I would attend a training session in headquarters, Ron would call me in to his office, pull out a huge cigar and ask me … “so what is really going on out there?” We would talk for an hour about the clients, products, employees, processes … straight talk between two people. I was scared to death given his position, and often wondered why he would take time to meet with such a low level employee. But at the end of each session Ron would thank me and ask me to call him before I was in town again.

Several years later as I was moving up the management chain, his motivation became crystal clear. Ron was looking for the unvarnished truth from someone who had no political agenda to ‘spin’ what was reported. I could see the decisions he made were based on the reality of the situation, not on what he might have learned in executive briefings.

This inspired me even more.

Lesson learned – manage by walking around. Listen to everyone. Be approachable so they are not afraid to tell you the truth.