I don’t suppose that my wife and I are the only ones that tidy up before the cleaner comes? I know some may laugh and ask ‘why are you cleaning when you have a cleaner?’, my reply “I am not cleaning, I am just clearing up before the cleaner comes”! The difference is subtle but it makes all the difference, especially in management.

When I was young business leader I had a strict open door policy. People could wonder in, bringing their troubles and ideas with them as they pleased. Today my door is kept shut, except by appointment, unless there is something extremely urgent, and why is this?

I found that if you have a real ‘open door’ it is very hard to get any work done, one is always interrupted. But this is not the most serious problem. When my door was open, people just expected me to solve their problems whenever they had them. The better I became at it, the lazier they became. But this was also not the most serious problem. If I solved their problem, they went away happy – if it worked out, it became ‘their solution’ if it went wrong, it was always mine.  I lost, no matter the outcome. I found myself becoming more and more tired. No one seemed to gained in the long run.

When you think about it, it boils down to a question of respect. In India, people spent a life time of servitude for ten minutes of enlightenment with their guru. Surely a few hours, or even minutes of preparation is not too much to ask for an hour with me?

Working at senior management level teaches the importance of preparation. To think the problem through, prior sharing it with ones peers. To look at it from all sides: ‘How would the finance director see it’? ‘What would the sales director say’? ‘Would the marketing director back it, what arguments would I use to defend it’? Etc. etc.

Five PowerPoint slides: one with the problem, one with two alternatives, another with the for’s and against each for the first and another with for’s and against of the second. The last slide with a conclusion, suggesting the best way to progress. With this system, as if by magic, more often than not the solution is at least partly solved before it even enters my room.

Leaders need to make sure they lead. They need to respect their managers and staff enough to have them use their brains and draw their own analytical conclusions, after all that is what they are paid for. Leaders should act as mirrors. They should endeavor to keep above the chores of daily business life, only dipping down into the details once in a while to be sure their footings are still on secure ground.

And so it is just like with my cleaner. I need to prepare for her. How can she sweep the floor if it has boxes and bags on it? How can she clean the worktops efficiently if they have last night’s wine glasses and dinner plates upon them?

As for the cleaner in my office, my challenge there is simply to see if I can make her smile, it’s a tough job but somebody has got to do it!

Have a good week,