I was recently walking and talking with “Anna,” a very astute business professional. She has been with her organization for more than 30 years. In that time, she has experienced this company experiencing great growth, weathered sharp declines, experienced a merger with a competitor and seen a major re-focusing.
While we walked, I mentioned a small issue I had with the company. Not really a complaint, but just a way I felt the company could be more customer-focused. Anna’s response: “What are you going to do? Fixing that is the responsibility of the corporate offices.” I was shocked.
Beeing an entrepreneur, I never have the luxury of sending my issues up and down the channel. I dropped it. I knew I had reached a dead end.
Reflecting on this company Anna is more the face of her organization than any regional vice president or district manager. Her desk is the place where the buck stops when customers and her subordinates need help. She is actually very experienced, highly skilled and very much an asset to the organization.
I know Anna’s supervisors came in from out of town and spent most of the time in conference rooms looking at memos, policies and spreadsheets. I think that these higher-ups should have taken time and practiced more management by walking around and greeting the front-line troops. Perhaps, they could have asked one or two of them what they thought could be done to improve productivity. The idea of thinking that the majors and generals have your back is actually a great morale booster. Implementing the changes they suggest is actually powerful.
As an entrepreneur, I feel fortunate that if I want something to change, it changes almost instantly. I don’t have to sell managers, divisions, various stakeholders or work within reams of business plans. Yet, I work to insure that I don’t just fire into space and pretend that I’m changing for the sake of change. I also know that I, and I alone, am the face of my company. There are times when I would love to hide behind a logo or a piece of policy, but I have often had my feet put to the fire when something was amiss.
I know that I’m fortunate to know all my stakeholders on a first name basis, versus trying to encourage change in my organization through a pile of memos and spreadsheets.