Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Emperor's Clothes

We all know the story of the Emperor's Clothes so I won't bore you with it here. But as I look around I see so many naked leaders. No one is dressing them anymore and they certainly aren't dressing themselves. They are naked and openly exposed.

Politicians, teachers, CEO's, and even the garbage man, are spouting stuff that would require a fool to believe, yet folks go on believing it. What's amazing to me is the reason given to believe what's said. They'll tell you that the person was schooled at this college, or came from such-and-such company, or they held position X before coming to your company. This is known as tyranny of authority. They figure you'll conclude: "He must be smart because of such-and-such background." But these are hardly reasons to follow blindly. If folks would just stop for a minute, and really listen to the words, they'd conclude the guy was nuts, crazy and maybe egocentric.

For example, I heard about one CIO who said to his drones: "Don't fraternize with anyone below your level, not even after work." Huh? What is he thinking? Social networks span across disciplines, jobs, and positions within any organization. Anyone seeking to eliminate that, is a fool, and anyone believing it, is drinking cool-aid.

Just today I rode the elevator with a woman that knows one of the key Data Architect's in the organization from when they played together in a sandbox. How could anyone sever that relationship. These two are inseparable. Besides you can't legislate after-hours association. What is he thinking?

One of the everlasting principles of management is the "floor walk." It's that time you walk around with your coffee and just ask one of your employees what they are working on. Have them explain to you how it fits in with the big picture. Chat, converse, listen. You'll learn much about rumors, misunderstandings, and the thinking process of the people that are earnestly attempting to make you successful.

I'm on a committee to help management communicate better with their employees. As you might deduce, this is a problem. However, one of the most basic communication tools is "the chat." Taking time out to just chat with the people that work for you will go a long way in building communication. If a manager is too busy to visit with the people that can make them successful, they won't be. They can't be. How could they be?

The reason is, mistrust. No one will work for someone else without the bond of trust. Trust bonds are developed in a one-on-one situation. If an employee can't communicate with his manager, they will not trust their manager and they'll go elsewhere. Because, really, who wants to stand by someone naked?

It is an inevitable defect, that bureaucrats will care more for routine than for results. -Walter Bagehot 1826-1877, British economist and essayist