Every department, company and democracy has a leader for a good reason. The one thing most of us would agree on, is that with any given issue there are as many opinions as there are stars in the sky… and someone needs to make the final call. I like the sayings “a camel was a horse designed by committee” and “too many cooks spoil the broth”, and of course to counter that “two heads are better than one”.
So how do you decide how much buy-in to get from the troops? When to listen and who to listen too? Who knows best? When and where does “the buck stop here”? Let’s sidetrack for a minute to the fundamental principals of executive decision making at the highest level… business innovation. In simple terms, at the front end of the process every idea is a good idea. After every goofy and insightful suggestion is exhausted, the process of elimination occurs to get the best idea in place that can solve the problem or create the new product.
I believe most leaders (be it of a department, a company, or a country) are both effective problem solvers and delegators. The best ones know when to call in specialists to assist and trust them to do the job at hand. The worst ones revert to “If I want your opinion I’ll give it to you”. Like most things it’s a matter of balance and from my viewpoint it’s a hard balance to achieve.
As an observer of leaders within the transportation sector for the last twenty years, I’ve seen all kinds. Some who are close minded to any new thinking, some that can’t decide, some that decide to quick, some that flip flop, some that run decisions by everybody (including close relatives), others that don’t let anyone in on what they’re thinking, a few that are extremely decisive, some surprisingly approachable, and those that are for the most part unapproachable by design. The commonality is they all run successful companies, have team members that complement there strengths and weaknesses and somehow find a way to keep all the balls bouncing in more or less the right direction.
In an ideal world I believe a good leader gets buy-in at the senior management level and that their senior managers are in touch with the needs and thinking of the troops. Decisions are not a democracy or a dictatorship. And a good leader knows when and how to bring the troops together, is decisive, cares about the people that make up their team and doesn’t keep that fact a secret.
I continue to learn about the decision making process and the responsibility of being a leader:
Lee’s Quote for the day
“Forget process, bonuses and perks of all kind. Honest and frequent communication is the most powerful tool we have to build the teams, the relationships and the success we deserve… we have the skills, we just need to remind ourselves to use them on a regular basis!”
This summer, Tim Horton’s introduced a new procedure where the person taking your order got a little more personal, “Hello my name is Debbie” were the words you heard as you drove up to the area where you initiated your first cup of java for the day. I waited for the new procedure to fall off but after several months the location I frequent has kept up the pace of being as warm and comforting as the products they serve.
Shift to small town New Brunswick. I had to visit recently on a family matter and stopped by the busy little Tim’s that has graced the community of less than 1000 for about 10 years now. Even the old boys that used to hang out at the barber shop and local gas station have migrated up the hill to their new spot and are quite comfortable calling Tim’s home.
For the most part, East Coasters have a reputation for being pretty friendly but when I took a spin through to get my morning coffee I didn’t hear the “Hello my name is…” greeting. Inquisitive person that I am, I mentioned my story to the lady serving me at the window. Her response was something like “Yes, we got some CD down from Ontario but I can’t see us doing that.” She proceeded to get my order and left me with these final and sincere words,”You have a good day now honey pie!”Friendly enough wouldn’t you say?
For all of us that have tried to initiate new processes and procedures is there a lesson to be learned? I think so. We tend to create all encompassing policies because we are either afraid to or are not able to single out individuals causing us grief in some way. Do most hourly employees punch time cards because at some point everyone was fudging their hours or because a few were? Are trucking companies religious about measuring on time performance because they were always late or because they messed up less than 5% of the time? Has anyone created a long list of rules and regulations for everyone because a small percentage of people are doing the equivalent of “peeing in the pool”…and does that sign on the wall actually stop those individuals from doing so in the future?”
I remember a blackout happening in Fredericton, NB where I went to university. At first it was “yahoo” with speeding cars everywhere but within a few hours there was self managed order without a street light or policeman in sight. In “Good to Great”, the author promotes self managed order as the key to business sustainability. It’s a leap of faith that requires a huge amount of trust. For the time being it seems the rotten apple continues to set the environment for the basket.
Lee’s quote for the day
“For the most part, the only thing tougher than initiating change is being on the receiving end of it.”
In one of my blogs not too far back, I suggested that if you have a diversified service mix you need to maintain the quality of each product to a similar high standard…maybe not. Last night some musician friends of mine were backing up a Japanese blues guy and invited me to come by. After viewing the performance it made me rethink my previous stance.
So here is a young blues man who has studied the traditional greats like Little Walter, Muddy Walters, Big Joe Williams and so on. His main thing is playing harp (harmonica) and he is extremely good at it, way above average and most definitely at a professional level. Born in Japan, he hasn’t quite mastered the English language and you can clearly hear a thick accent in his voice. If he had started off singing, you might have dismissed him totally as a bad karaoke performer, for at first it’s almost comical to hear his rendition of the traditional blues classics that make up his repertoire. But…
..but he started off with his strongest talent first. He was very credible as a blues harp player so you gave him a little more rope before judging his vocal abilities. And guess what? Although an acquired taste, he was very sincere in his performance and within a few songs you couldn’t help but accept him. And after a set of his brand of blues, with an awesome back up band (another immediate source of credibility) and confident performance…he was an undeniable hit.
It was a bit of an epiphany for me and maybe a lesson for us all. If we lead with our strength, are prepared and confident… maybe clients will let us sing the occasional number that is a little out of tune, providing we continue to impress them with our core service talents.
Lee’s quote for the day
“It’s probably true that you never get a second chance at a first impression… so let’s hone our talent and lead with our strength so that by association, the odd sour notes that come later aren’t quite as noticeable!”