While waiting to be introduced at a recent seminar, the words of the person introducing me caught my attention.
Truth be told, before speaking to a group, I'm usually focused on what I'm going to be saying in the next 60 minutes, not on what the person in the front of the room is saying about me.
In this case, that regional manager was actually meeting some of his employees in the room for the first time. When he walked to the front of the room, I could see most folks straighten up just a bit as the "boss" they didn't know was about to speak.
He smiled, thanked them for being there, gave his name and title, and then began with, "I work for you guys." It was a simple, matter-of-fact statement that, judging by a few facial expressions, surprised a few people. As he continued, he didn't overdo it or come across as fake or condescending.
Frontline employees and even managers often feel that their jobs are "working for" folks higher on the org chart whom they seldom see. That regional manager's comment reminded me that I hadn't addressed that topic with managers in a while.
A manager's (at any level) success is simply the cumulative successes and failures of the people who "report" to him. If you are interested in your personal success, you'd better be uber-interested in the personal success of the folks who report to you.
One of the benefits of communicating this message to employees is that it gives future coaching and managing input new light. Good managers don't question and prod and make suggestions to teammates because they have nothing better to do.
Their jobs are helping individuals and, therefore, their teams succeed.
If an individual or branch team is not succeeding, and no one appears to be trying to find out why or change that dynamic, someone isn't doing his job. On a similar note, I often remind managers that they are (usually) lucky enough to get to choose who they work for by whom they hire and, as important, by whom they keep on their team.
And while we may work for our employees, never let anyone forget that everyone works for the highest ranking people in the organization - your customers. It is customers, after all, who have the power to "fire" everyone by simply choosing to bring their business elsewhere.
Who are you and your team working for today?
My wife recently told me about a diet being promoted by some guy whose name I sort of recognized but likely have intentionally ignored.
He's one of those gurus who show up on TV shows to give sage advice to people sitting on sofas. She said that this guy's new diet sounded like it might work. After hearing it, I laughed out loud and said, "Gee… ya think?"
Basically, the guy is telling folks to cut out all sodas, white breads, alcohol, "junk food" and "fast food". He also wants you to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day and alternate 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise and walking each day.
I chuckled and suggested that apparently the plan works by taking away your will to live. If you get depressed enough, your appetite is likely curbed.
As my wife accused me of being too cynical, I asked, "Did he say pick any 2 or 3 items on the list?" I was informed (to my further amusement) that his plan called for doing everything on the list right away.
I told her that I totally agreed that the .01% in the TV audience who heard him and had the fortitude to stick to that plan would obviously lose weight. My point was that his plan wouldn't survive past week one for most folks giving it a shot.
Giggling about that wonder diet, I thought about something I ask of participants at the end of seminars. With any luck, most have multiple "to do" items after a session. Some folks are pretty psyched about the lengthy list of things they've identified to make changes and improvements to.
I usually tell them that I'm happy that they've identified important items to address. I then ask them to please choose one… maybe two… at most three things to focus their time, talent, and energy on as soon as they walk out of the room.
The other items on their lists should be folded and stuck in their pockets for the time being.
Declaring that you'll immediately improve upon every single thing you've identified sounds good. But the reality is that when we try to tackle too many things all at once, we work really hard - and end up making few real or lasting changes.
It's not about ignoring things that obviously need addressing. It's about prioritizing the more relevant and important ones and committing to the focus and effort required to make real changes stick.
What are your priorities this month?