More courage from managers is what I’ve been saying we need. Sometimes, it’s the courage to perhaps look foolish as you lead by example. A willingness to do what others might question.
If you know anything about the Upper East Side of Manhattan, you know it’s a pretty affluent area. Many of the clientele in stores are rather well-off women with the kinds of dogs that you can fit in a purse. Well, one time a well-thought-of client’s poodle left a puddle when he piddled. Okay, you’re the manager, what do you do? Ask someone to take care of it? Order someone to clean that up? A manager whom I know took care of it this way. He cleaned it up himself. Sure, he could have asked, or ordered, a staff person to do it. He cleaned it up himself. He would never ask someone on his staff to do something he wouldn’t do himself.
Maybe he looked foolish on his hands and knees in his suit cleaning up after a little dog. Maybe other customers thought it looked odd to see the manager cleaning up a dog’s accident. I think he impressed the customer whose dog it was and it cemented her loyalty to the place. And I know it said an awful lot to the staff. How could they say, “No” to anything the manager might ask them to do? Not after he’d courageously led by example. He’d cemented his position as their manager, and had cemented their loyalty to him.
Having the courage to do what others might not, or might not think is something a manager ought to do, is a big part of leading by example. And it takes courage.
Lately I’ve been thinking about courage. Not the kind soldiers or single mothers have. Managerial courage. The courage to do the right thing even when you’re not sure how it will turn out or how your actions will be perceived. The courage to tell an underperforming employee that he needs to do better. The courage to tell someone that she needs to start showing up on time or not to talk back to irritating customers. I know, it’s common sense. People ought to know that they should do their jobs, show up when scheduled and don’t give lip to customers. And if they did, a manager’s job would be a lot easier. Sadly that’s not the case. And that’s where courage comes in.
No one likes to inherit deadwood. Think of a time when you took over a new team or department. What did you find? Some excellent workers doing exactly as you would hope and expect. And then the deadwood. A few people whom you can’t understand how they still have their jobs. How did the last manager let them get away with this level of performance?
Courage. The last manager lacked courage. For whatever reason, and I’ve probably heard them all, he did nothing and left this mess for you to clean up.
Do you want to be “that guy?” The one who leaves the deadwood behind. Is that the reputation you want? Jobs are fluid nowadays, but reputations are fragile. Maybe the last manager didn’t handle the under-performer because he figured he’d be working somewhere else soon enough so why bother? The reputation he leaves behind though will follow him throughout his career.
Don’t be “That Guy.” Have courage. The rest of your staff are watching you. If you fail to manage your lesser performers, you will lose the ability, and possibly the right, to manage anyone.
I’ve got a few more thoughts on this so look for more example and thoughts on courage. And of course I welcome your examples. Let’s hear ’em!