Interactions with Purpose
I worked for a university president who lived in an on-campus residence. Surrounding the house were stately, slow-growing boxwoods that had taken decades to mature to their full beauty. Periodic pruning kept their pleasing shape when done by trained landscapers who understood their growth patterns. One day, the president decided that the boxwoods needed some trimming. Rather than go through the proper channels, he summoned a hard-charging project manager he personally liked who had a reputation for getting jobs done quickly. Unfortunately, this person, while well intended, had little knowledge of horticulture or, in this case, how to prune a boxwood.
The president asked him to gather a crew to “trim up the boxwoods” around the house. The project manager jumped on the job without first checking in with the landscape supervisor. As literally instructed, the workers “trimmed up” the shrubs with what could only be described as a poodle cut from the ground up.
When the president returned home that afternoon and saw the horticultural crime that had been inflicted on the boxwoods, he was apoplectic. He vented his anger on the person in charge of the campus buildings and grounds—a person he had skipped with his direct order to the wrong person. The bewildered landscape supervisor had no knowledge of what had happened or why he was being blamed.
Meetings and public communications, with an emphasis on keeping a good flow of accurate information throughout an organization, are critical for effective leadership. In addition to public-facing impressions and interaction, there is one form of communication that can go seriously awry without attention. This can happen when people skip layers of the chain of command to talk about work issues.
Many bosses pride themselves on having open-door policies. What this implies varies greatly from organization to organization. But what it universally suggests is that any of your staff members can have direct access to you for a conversation.
There is always more than one side to a story.
A variation of such access might be when you visit work areas and have spontaneous conversations or when you give directions to individuals who are not your direct reports. These management approaches are commendable if handled properly. Otherwise, these approaches can quickly become counterproductive.
I am a big believer in having conversations with employees at all levels of the organization. However, be extremely careful about what and how much is said and to whom it is said. All conversations are not equal.
There are endless variations on how people will use your open-door opportunity. Open-door sessions with staff who are not your direct reports are best used as listening sessions. You can learn a lot, but keep in mind the old adage: there is always more than one side to a story.
Be extremely careful about what and how much is said.
If you would like to explore this concept and more on the topic of leadership, please consider reading my book, So, You Want to Be a Leader.
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So, You Want to Be a LEADER
Being a leader is not easy for anyone. Thankfully, this book transforms more than a half-century of leadership experiences into a practical handbook for those looking to excel in leadership roles. In candid fashion, So, You Want to Be a Leader: Secrets of a Lifetime of Success, reveals what works—along with an unvarnished examination of what doesn’t—in a myriad of work-related situations.
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