Thursday, June 4, 2015

Lessons in leadership

A workplace fable. Resemblance to actual individuals is purely coincidental

The new boss called his senior administrative staff together for a meeting.

Someone should have brought a recorder. The meeting begins at 3:00 and for a solid hour he talks at the six people sitting around the conference table. Motivational seminar clich├ęs pour out as though from a fire-hose.
It's all about the customer experience; he plans to right-structure the Division; he's into being pro-active; let's analyze what kind of value we bring to the customer; he values transparency.

At the table, he's in constant motion. He thrusts his bullet-shaped head forward, then rears it back. He turns from side to side, looking into each person's eyes in turn, grinning, before moving on to the next. His hands gesture broadly.

Since he doesn't pause to hear from his captive audience, he can answer his own rhetorical questions. "Are there opportunities we can proactively respond to? Why, you might wake up in the middle of the night and say, Hey! I got a great idea! Well, my door's always open, you can bring it to me. Now maybe I won't always agree with you, but my door's always open."

He shares his his enthusiasm for pithy sayings.  "I love that analogy!" he'll crow, after delivering a choice adage, like "It's the difference between working in your business and working on your business!"

"Exceeds expectations - my two favorite words!"

They sit at the table, notepads in front of them, but there's nothing to write down. It's non-specific and veers swiftly from one thought to another. They fiddle with their pens and try to look attentive, but it's a little hard to know how to act. Should they make eye contact? Smile and nod? Around the table, everyone is transfixed by the performance.

He probably doesn't mean to be, but it feels condescending for him to explain the basics of customer service to senior staff.  They'd all attended countless training sessions and seminars during their careers, but here he was, explaining it to them as though they'd never heard of such a thing. He evokes the name of Disney, as though calling upon a patron saint.

"Take the time while you're working," he says, "and just take a look out at people in the park. Look at the joy we bring to customers everyday - do we ever think about that?"

Well, yes. They do. Why would he presume to think they don't?

It's an hour-long harangue, almost a word-for-word repeat of the first meeting he called two weeks ago. The same cliches, the same aphorisms. There are no tasks assigned, no action items identified, no directions given.   After the hour has passed, all the six people in the room know is that "change is coming!" and he's here to "lead" them.


smalltownme said...

It's good you're outta there.

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

How many days do you have left? That's what I would be thinking during such a meeting. That or planning my first week's worth of restaurant debauchery in New Orleans. Ugh!