When I was a child I used to enjoy playing the game ‘When I become king I will…’ The idea was that each person had to stand up and say ‘When I become King I will…’ and then come out with a change that will be so popular that they would be voted King. Now I am older, I can see where my drive for business leadership came from. The only problem is, I didn’t realize then how tough it is to be King and to remain popular while driving through change.
Last Saturday morning, I was having a meeting with the Sales and Production Managers of one of our clients. During a tour of the factory I heard the most awful music playing over the PA system. It sounded like something from a holiday camp in the early 1950’s. Surprised by the fact that the music seemed to be out of keeping with the profiles of the two managers and their modern outlook for their business, I asked ‘who chooses the music here?’ The answer surprised me.
The production manager said that when he first joined as a freelance, one of the things that put him off the idea of investing his money in the business and joining the team as Production Manager was the awful choice of radio station playing in the factory. So, unsurprisingly, on his first day in his official position and part owner of the business, he switched it to a more modern and ‘appropriate’ channel. What happened next shocked him.
The workforce, or at least a significant part of it, became angry. They liked their music station. Their reaction was so unexpected and severe that the Production Manager quickly backed down. And three years later, it is still unchanged.
So, the question here is – who is in the right? By backing down the new manager showed that if his personnel don’t like something and if they complain hard enough, they can get what they want. On the other hand you can argue that he ‘listened’ to his people and decided they had the right to choose what music they worked to?
The manager in this story is young and relatively inexperienced and I was reminded of my first business and how company politics crept in after I hired my third employee, and how unhappy it made me. My task last Saturday morning switched to seeing if the production manager’s backing down was a ‘once off’ situation or a pattern? Could I find any evidence, anywhere, in the business where real leadership manifested itself?
I am a strong believer that it is the manager’s job to manage. That he, or she, needs to decide what is right for their people and for the business. Being liked (or not) should never be the focus or even the desire. The only acceptable outcome for me is to be respected, any more than that is unrealistic if one wishes to make tough decisions to bring about change.
In my experience, it’s nice when people like you, but it’s very unpleasant when those who once ‘liked’ you end up despising you because they think you betrayed their friendship.
Have a good week,