Thursday, January 24, 2008

Make up your own mind

A few years ago I was appointed to a fairly senior management position and I was told by several of my peers that our Chief Executive was not exactly the most approachable person in the world and not the most tolerant.

Urban Myths abounded about this man. He was allegedly well known for shouting at people and all in all not a pleasant person.

Although I was not directly responsible to him I was intrigued about this image that was projected. My natural curiosity – some would say naivety – got the better of me. I knew the tone of the organisation was set from the top and I wanted to find time in my induction to ask for an audience with this man to get a feel for what he expects of senior managers.

I rang him in my first week and explained that if he had time I would like to meet him as part of my induction to hear directly from him what expectation he has of people working in the organisation.

I was pleasantly surprised at his reaction. Firstly he was very pleasant as a person and second he was surprised that I had done this. He willingly made an appointment in his diary for me to have 30 minutes with him the following week.

Come the appointed time I walked in to his office and he asked me what I wanted to know.

I told him that I simply wanted a steer from him as the top manager in the organisation about expectations. I was not asking for any detail simply an overview ‘from the top.’

He gave me some views about his own style and what he expects from managers in the organisation and those views were very helpful to me. As I left, thanking him for his time, he said that I was the first person that had ever asked for an audience as part of their induction and that he felt this was a good thing to do.

Although I am not arrogant enough to suggest it helped him, I feel that it did give him food for thought.

As I grew into my job I kept on hearing the urban myths about the behaviour of this Chief Executive but speaking personally I never had a problem with him. He was always polite and concerned about what I did. He was supportive where needed and he also made it absolutely clear what he expected of me if ever there was a job to be done for him.

I am sure that like all myths there was an element of truth in the reputation ‘enjoyed’ by this man but from my perspective he was fair but firm and that is ok as far as I am concerned.

Leadership Lesson

Don’t always believe what you hear about your bosses. Make your mind up based on how they treat you


Glenn said...

Anytime someone moves into a new position, (especially a higher one) I recommend that he or she do as you did. But don't limit this to the CEO, identify those people in each dept. with which you need to improve your relationship. Schedule a meeting of no more than 45 minutes. Give that person an overview of what you are doing (less than 10 minutes) then shut up and listen to their needs as they relate to you. This is especially inportant for depts. that are your internal customers. Tip o' the hat to for this suggestion. It works.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Glenn – I agree with you. When I started one of my jobs in my long management career in the National Health Service I spent the first three weeks or so of the job just listening to people about what they did. I also asked what they expected of me as the manager. It was brilliant learning for me and most of my time was spent in listening mode. It stood me in great stead for the following three years in that job.

Rocky said...

I really like the idea of being firm but fair. I think it is a difficult balance to make and the best leaders have that quality. It is essential that youare fair, but accountability cannot be dismissed. Being firm without being rude is sometimes difficult for people. I think a good leader has to have the ability to firm when necessary.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Rocky - the best bosses I've known always had clarity about where they were going. There is a fine balance between autocracy and democracy and the best leaders/bosses always get that balance right.

Smith said...

As like you said, there is a fine balance between autocracy and democracy, and your chief is known about it exactly. I guess the people who complain about your boss are made remarks without understand him completely. He responded and helped you in the process, because you made an effort to know his vision and expectation.
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Trevor Gay said...

You are right on Smith - it is about getting to know people really and that is so easy.

I don't know why we don't all make more time to get to know our bosses.