It must be Friday the 13th.
I get up every morning between 5:30 and 6:00 AM. At that time when I get dressed I am always in a bit of a fog, stumbling around in the gray dawn of the morning, not wanting to turn on the lights. It was ‘casual Friday’ and I can’t find my new Chinos.
But I do find my old pants. Love these. You know when you find a piece of clothing like a housecoat, or spring jacket that just fits so well? They feel so good that you wish that you bought at least 2 of them!
So while they are a bit faded I slipped on my old pants, felt the great fabric but more importantly the ‘expandable waistline’ that says ‘yeah baby…you are so middle-aged’.
But 10 minutes later, as you are standing in the line at the coffee shop waiting to order your regular standard coffee, ‘double-double’, you find you have nothing to do while some guy is stumbling through ordering a pack of 24 donuts for his office. Changing his mind, asking questions about ingredients. I mean, that’s the guy you always send out for donuts isn’t it. You sent him out for a breather because he drives everybody in the office nuts.
“Which color post it notes did you want again boss?”
“Hey Ronnie, why don’t you head over to Tim’s and get us some crullers and some chocolate glazes. Here’s $20, see ya…”
So you basically have nothing to do. And then you look down.
Then you see it.
You see that BIG HOLE the size of a nickel on your left pant leg! Ugh.
You start to look around and wonder if others can see it too. And realize that the others who haven’t had their coffee yet are in a fog too. They are standing eyes glazed over as well. But it’s the people that are sitting…sitting at the tables…halfway through their first cup of java for the day and are now alert.
Hmm…do they see it? Or are they simply averting their eyes feeling sad for some lonely middle aged guy who can’t afford a good pair of pants? Or did he wipe out climbing up the stairs to some hockey game, ripping a hole in his pants on some jagged cement step, scorching the skin on his knee?
Then the debate starts.
‘Should I just go to work and persevere, hoping nobody sees it. Perhaps I can explain it? Or should I go back and get another pair? But now I have to change my shirt too.’ It’s like telling the poor programmers at our trucking software company that they need to go back and adjust the code.
As I get in the car to head off to work and drink my first few sips of coffee, I can now see that the hole which was situated just below my kneecap when I am standing, is now resting above my kneecap when I am sitting. And its practically staring me in the face…daring me to ignore it.
Jessie will say:
“Hey boss, you know you have a hole in your pants?”
And Angelena will say:
“Can I ask you something? How do you feel about that hole in your pants?”
So you decide to head back home, risk waking up everyone to go get some new pants and a new shirt. You delay your arrival at work by 10 or so minutes with this ‘re-do’ of your routine. And the ironing board gets stuck too. Grrr.
But driving to work down the highway past all those containers, and trucks serving our local container port, you find yourself still thinking about the hole. And you start to think about the holes that you might have in your trucking software business.
You see, when you lead a business, you will find a lot of holes. But a lot of them aren’t obvious to you. You can’t see them all. And you can’t fix them all by yourself either. They are hidden in all sorts of places, in departments, in your systems, in your budgets, your people’s performance. But your staff wants to know if you can see the holes…and more importantly to see if you care about the holes. Are you willing to compromise and put up with them or are you committed to improving and fixing them?
And if you come into work one day with a hole in your pants some your staff are going to think that…
1) You aren’t perceptive enough to see the holes or…
They may also wonder that if you don’t care about that hole in your pants, if you actually care about changing your underwear as well…
You see, there is simply a baseline for leadership. You have to do the best that you can to fix the holes that you can see. But you also need to put mechanisms in place to fix the holes you can’t see. You have to empower your people to fix the holes that they can fix (actually to look for them and then fix them).
Once a month we have a ‘Done Well – Do Better’ meeting with our staff where we look at the highlights and accomplishments for the month. And I am always asking our colleagues for input on ‘what we can do better’ or ‘something we can fix’.
In my ‘one-on-ones’ with people I will ask:
“If you were in my shoes, what would you do differently?”
I figure that if you don’t, or won’t, or can’t do these things in your business…then you might as well sit at your desk all day from 7 AM to 6 PM hiding the hole in your pants…and wait till everybody goes home.
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