This is a true story, but the names have been changed. I went hiking with my friend Dale this morning. He is a mid level manager in a medium sized firm. He mentioned that their long term Chief Operations Officer had recently left the organization. After a few more steps up the trail, I asked him what difference that had made. He considered his answer carefully and with a little grin said, “Productivity has gone up in every department by 20% or more.”
There is a huge elephant that is limiting productivity in many organizations, and it’s called Frank… or Jim… or Mary… or Cynthia… or whoever it is in your organization that fits the description of Frank below.
I asked Dale what happened after Frank left the organization. Again, he considered his answer carefully. “It wasn’t what happened after Frank left. It was mostly what didn’t happen while he was there.”
We stopped hiking and I pulled out my 3×5 card and pen.
“With Frank, we lost interest. We just did what we had to do to get our paychecks.”
Dale frowned and proceeded slowly. “I got to the point where I didn’t really care anymore. I was never good enough for him… and it always felt like he was either scolding me or telling me what to do. In fact, now that I think about it, I didn’t really feel like I was a human being. I just felt like I was a cog in a machine that he was using to get HIS job done.”
“So who has taken his place?”
“Well that’s the funny thing. We don’t have a permanent replacement yet, but I guess we have to credit Jean. The CEO brought her out of retirement until we hire a new COO.” Dale started to shake his head. “No, it’s more than Jean. It’s really us. It’s like we’re all new again, like we all have a new job. We no longer have Frank breathing down our back and we’re free to do a good job.”
“But surely you still need a boss, someone to direct you.”
“Well that’s just it. Jean doesn’t direct us. She sort of lets us direct ourselves.”
“Dale, I’d really appreciate it if you’d be specific here. This might be helpful for us to share with other leaders.”
“Ok. You know, the first thing she did really surprised me. She didn’t seem to need to impress us. She didn’t pretend that she knew how to do our jobs. In fact, the first thing she did was ask each of us to tell her about our departments and what is working well.” A big smile spread across Dale’s face. “And then she listened – I mean really listened. Then later she asked us for our vision and how we wanted to upgrade our departments and how we planned on getting that done.”
Dale started to ascend the trail, but then he stopped. “Here’s the thing. Jean treated me like I was remarkable, and I don’t know what it is, but when she treats me that way, I’m going to be that way.”
It’s true: The people around you are just like you and me. They simply want to contribute and do a good job. They truly want to be great.
What will you do today to allow and help the people around you be great? Are there any Frank’s that you need to re-assign or re-train today?