I was driving down the interstate on my way to work a few days ago when I caught a glimpse of the lottery billboard. It was advertising the jackpot to be $200 million. My mind wondered to what it would be like to walk away with $50 million of that money after the one time payout and taxes. A house on the beach, playing lots of golf, enjoying time with my kids…..becoming bored out of my gourd.
As much as I would just love to retire, I know myself and only being in my 30’s I would get very bored. I need to keep myself busy. Lean is a passion so what better way to stay busy than to keep working and help others continue to implement lean.
Next I started thinking about my current job. What would it be like to have absolutely no worries about money? I am sure there would be different discussions I would have with people at work than I do today.
Be completely honest with yourself and ask if you would go about everything the same way you do now if you had not worries about money.
I know in the ideal state we would say financial security doesn’t change the way I do my job. We want everyone around us, especially at higher levels of management to be open and honest. Be able to accept coaching and candid feedback from people reporting to them. Not hold a single thing said or done against us because we know everything is done with positive intention.
But lets be honest, that isn’t reality. I am able to have a lot of open and honest conversations, but I also have to be political and go about things within the culture of my company. There is an underlying concern to make sure that I continue to receive a paycheck and grow my career so that I can provide for my family, send my kids to college, and put a roof over their head.
Having to watch how I say when talking to certain people so I am honest but political and tip-toeing is very draining. Having to understand and try several methods to get a message to senior leadership without concern for what may happen, real or imagined, is hard to do and takes more time and adds waste to the process.
Take out the risk of needing to maintain financial security and some conversations get more direct and to the point. If you didn’t have to worry about money, would you worry about trying to make sure people though well of you because you need to keep a paycheck coming in, especially in the current economy?
Think about Bob from “The Gold Mine.” He was retired and didn’t need any money so he said freely what he needed to say. He wasn’t worried that he might get fired, because if they didn’t want his help, so what.
Would your conversations be different in some cases if you had financial security?
Now go buy a lottery ticket.
Earlier this year I read the novel “The Gold Mine” by Freddy Balle and Michael Balle. When I was finished, I thought it was a good book and I liked the novel format. I found the book OK. It talked about a lot of lean concepts, but nothing new and it didn’t strike me in a new way. I was really taken aback by the behavior of Bob Woods, the main character of the story, a retired lean guy who had transformed many facilities. When asked to help out a friend of his son, he reluctantly agrees.
What shocked me the most was Bob’s behavior in the book. It seemed very command and control. Do it this way or don’t call me! type of attitude. The book is based around this attitude and his lack of patience for someone not taking action and doing it the way he said to do it. The attitude didn’t seem very lean leadership like.
Fast forward several months, I am now reflecting on the book again. I had to look in the mirror and ask myself, “Am I Bob Woods?” I have a better understanding of where he was coming from now. Have you ever gone into a situation where you know you can help? They have asked for your help, but in the end they don’t want to do it or argue with you. It becomes very frustrating to the point where you finally take an attitude of do it this way or don’t ask me for help anymore!
I still don’t believe this a way a great leader would behavior, but I have some empathy for Bob Woods now. How do you avoid becoming Bob Woods as you do more and more lean transformation work? As leaders we are to bring people along with us. That is the definition of leadership. Telling someone what do to is dictatorship. Is it appropriate to display the behavior of do it my way or don’t ask at any time? I feel there isn’t a time or a place for that, but it may not be that black and white.
What are you thoughts?