Monday, February 3, 2014

Dancing Naked on Table Tops

A long, long time ago at a company far, far away, one of my staff members wrote in status report that they "danced naked on a table top during their staff meeting." Obviously, this got my attention. I asked my staffer what this was all about. The associate told me that they didn't think that anyone actually read their report, so they put this in to see if anyone noticed.

Admittedly, I didn't always do the best and most thorough job of reading status reports. To be totally honest, sometimes I didn't read them at all. Many times, I just passed the information along to my bosses. In fact, I could easily have missed this one. But, thank heaven, I did read this report. The message behind the message got my attention. If you are a manager or leader, have you stopped to consider if your direction adds value, your requests are necessary, and if these requests are helping your team to succeed?

I had an influential boss named Jeff Peace. A very capable manager, leader, and unknowing mentor of mine. I learned a lot from that man. When I worked for him, he was the program manager on one of the large aircraft development programs at that company far, far away. He was unique from all the other managers I supported. He didn't care about status updates. Could care less about reports. In fact, when I sent him my first report, he told me that he gave me a responsibility and expected it to get done so why did he need a report? If I failed, I would be held accountable.

Don't get me wrong, he cared deeply about the project and wanted to know when we needed help. Afterall, his neck was on the line too. In fact, I can only imagine what it was like when he went to his superiors and they asked him, "How's the project going? Is it on schedule? Are there any issues?"  And his response would be ... "I assume fine" or "I haven't heard about any problems", or "Everything's going great?" but had nothing to show them. What a statement about responsibility, accountability, and trust. Jeff knew our capability and he trusted us.

Here are some things to consider and use as a test for yourself. Do you trust your people? Do you ask for reports and information that you never intend to use except to justify your position? Do your people feel ownership, accountability and a sense that they are trusted to complete the job? Does your team know that they will be held accountable but that they can also come to you for help anytime they need it? And, if they come, do you take the responsibility back or do you help them to succeed within their charge?

I don't know if he will ever read this blog, but thank you, Jeff, for trusting me and teaching me to trust those I manage and lead. As always, I welcome comments.