Sunday, September 26, 2010

Decisions, Decisions...

"It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are."

~Roy Disney

Our company is like many others, trying to keep our head above water. “Cash is king”. One Saturday I went into the office and found a stack of checks payable to our company. Each check was $180 and there were eleven of them. I was so happy to see all of those checks. However after a closer inspection of the checks I found they were duplicate payments that were for work we had already been paid for months ago.

What to do? Cash the checks knowing that at some point the customer would discover that they had already paid for the work? We could use the money and pay it back when they called, if they called. Well the decision was really easy, I called and emailed the customer to alert them of the erroneous payments, and we promptly refunded them the money. The next week I was given two large jobs from the same customer.

Knowing and doing what is right is one of the most gratifying things one can do. A clear conscience is invaluable.

Have you ever been faced with a decision where your perceived need was greater than doing what was right? I hope that you did the right thing.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Humble Pie

Have you ever had this conversation with one of your children or with one of your parents? “I am the parent and you are the child. When I tell you to do something it should be, ‘Yes Dad,’ or ‘Yes Mom.’” Sometimes as a parent you may feel like you do not have to explain yourself to your child or that you have all of the answers.

I was engaged in a conversation with my son in which I knew I was right. I made sure that he understood that I was right and that no further discussion really was necessary. After a mild protest he finally gave in, (and not a minute too soon).

After he went upstairs to his room, my wife in her own motherly way and with wisdom and patience showed me the error in my position. As it turned out in this instance my son was right and I was wrong.

Have you ever eaten humble pie? The main ingredient is humility, but other critical ingredients are understanding, sincerity and love. It does not taste good going in, but once it settles in your stomach it gradually satisfies.

After letting the situation soak in a bit, I made the trek upstairs and knocked gently on my son’s door. He opened it and I said that I was sorry that I did not hear him out and asked for his forgiveness. He forgave and we hugged. What a great feeling!

As a leader you have to be willing to be held accountable for the things you both do and say to the people you lead, whether at work or at home. Simply saying, “I am the boss,” or “I am the parent is flawed leadership.

How you handle matters with the people you lead can have either a negative or positive long-term impact on your relationship. Admitting when you are wrong is not a sign of weakness, but respect and strength.

I don’t know about you, but I'd rather eat apple pie.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Come on In the Door is Open

I received a call from a recruiter that I worked with years ago. He reminded me of the time he and his staff flew out to our office for a meeting to discuss sourcing strategies for identifying and hiring new employees. He recalled that during our meeting a staff member interrupted to let me know that one of our employees was in my office and wanted to speak with me. (I have always had an open door policy, especially for my hourly staff.) He remembered that I excused myself from the meeting and met with the employee. Our conference room had a large glass window and while I was speaking with the employee, he was observing our conversation. Shortly thereafter the employee left and I returned to our meeting. He recalled that the employee was distraught and when he left I placed my arm around his shoulders, which resulted in a smile on his face.

The recruiter said that my brief exchange with my employee had a significant impact on him. He said in all of his travels across the country, and out of all of the managers he had met, he had never seen a manager interact with employees in that way. He said for me to excuse myself from a meeting to speak with an employee was very unusual, but admirable. It totally caught me off guard to hear of the lasting impression those few minutes had made on him.

Before I landed a leadership position I remember so many times when I wanted to speak with my boss and many times he seemed to be disinterested in speaking with me or his door stayed shut for long periods of time and you dare not interrupt him. When I had questions or just wanted his help with an issue he could be short with me. I never liked the way it made me feel, unimportant, in the way, or a bother.

In the movie Ever After, Danielle (played by Drew Barrymore) is having a conversation with Henry (played by Dougray Scott). During the interchange she reminded him of the importance of the people (peasants) he leads.

Danielle: The Prince has read Utopia?
Henry: I found it sentimental and dull. Honestly, the plight of the everyday rustic bores me.
Danielle: I... take it you do not converse with many peasants.
Henry: Ha, certainly not, no. Naturally.
Danielle: Forgive me, Your Highness, but there is nothing "natural" about it. A country's character is defined by its "everyday rustics," as you call them. They are the legs you stand on and that position demands respect,...”

“They are the legs you stand on and that position demands respect.” No leader ever accomplishes anything without the legs of an organization—those legs are its people. I am always cognizant of that fact and as a result, I will always take the time to speak with the people that work for me, and my door will always remain open.