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Leadership Traits: Accessibility

I heard a cute story once.  Here it is:

Early one Monday morning at 06:50 AM, Mrs. Versengetorex’ son, Poindexter, was still in bed.  Her son had to be at school no later than 07:30 AM, or he’d be late.  He’d just started this school three months before, and she wanted him to maintain a good reputation with the students, and faculty of the new school.

“Dexter!” Mrs. V. said sternly knocking on her sons closed bedroom door.

“What?” came a sad, muffled, mournful moan from the other side of the door.

“Get up!” Mrs. V. said, “It’s six fifty.  You’re going to be late for school if you don’t hurry.”

“I’m not going to school today.” came the loathsome declaration from the other side of the door.

“And why not?”

“I’m sick.”

“You’re not sick.”  Mrs. Versengetorex knew better, she’d been going this round with her son for many years.  “Get out of bed, and get ready for school.  You’re going to be  late!”

“No!”

“Do it now, Mr. Versengetorex!” 

Now, all you guys out there know, when Mom calls you Mister, or calls you by your first, middle, and last name, capitulation is just about the only option you have remaining.  However, there is one calling card left at this stage of negotiations which may turn the tables.  The Whining Assertation of Position Maneuver, which should only be deployed as a last ditch effort.

“Come on, mom!” Poindexter asserted, “None of the teachers like me, and all the kids at school make fun of me.  I just don’t want to deal with it today.”

“Too bad!” mother retorted, “That’s the way it is when you’re the Principle.  Get up and get to school.”

Poindexter had moved back to his home town to take the position of Principle at one of the schools, and was staying with his mother till he got settled.

I think the original intent of the story was to act as a kid of morality story for grade school children.  You know, even the Principal doesn’t want to get up and go to school sometimes.  

For the purposes of this blog, this story gives us a point from which to think.  What happens when the principle doesn’t show up.  Who coordinates things at school?  Someone surely takes the big seat, or at least tries to take the big seat.  Do they know all the ins and outs of running a school.  If they do, how long will it be before they get tired of filling the big seat without actually owning it?

If we’re in a leadership position, we need to show up.  Principle, general manager, supervisor, shop steward, parent, spouse, friend, we need to be there for our people.  We need to be available, we need to be accessible.

The need to be accessible goes beyond either being present on the job site, or sitting by the phone.  We need to be available, and accessible in another way … we need to be approachable.  The manager who is not approachable is usually, and if not, should be replaced quickly.

Here’s a story that isn’t as cute as the one above.  When I was running restaurants, we hired a particular person to take over as general manager for one of the stores.  He scheduled himself from 09:00 AM, till 05:00 PM, Monday through Friday.  That was fine, except his store didn’t start getting busy till around 05:45 PM, and the greater half of his business came in between Friday Nights and close of business early Sunday mornings. 

Furthermore, he’d left instructions with his people that he was not to be bothered after he left work for the day … unless the store was burning down.  Sadly, when he was on site between 09:00 AM, and 05:00 PM, Monday through Friday, he maintained the same profile … he sat in his office, and didn’t want to be bothered.  In addition to demoralizing the crew, the crew lacked guidance, and continuity … the person at the helm didn’t have his hands on it.  The store went from a nice profit to a big loss quickly, and the manager was given the opportunity to explore alternative employment prospects.

You have to be accessible to your people.

Till next time, keep reading the good stuff, because it keeps you fantastic.

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