Guident Newsletter – October 2016 – Issue 5

Who are your “Leaders’ without Stripes”?

When I am asked by business owners to assist with changing the culture within their organization, I often ask, “Do you know who your “leaders’ without stripes” are?”  Business owners are some of the most prolific people within the organization.  They are constantly coming up with innovative ways to improve their businesses.  While working with one business owner to change the culture in his organization I observed this exchange…

The business owner delivered a speech to the organization describing a new policy to improve their culture.  A young apprentice was walking back to his department after this meeting and asked his foreman, “What do you think?  I think “The Boss” has a great idea there.”  The foreman has been with the company for a long time and has seen a lot of “stuff” come and go within the organization.  His response to the young apprentice was, “Listen, you work for me!  This is another one of “The Bosses” ideas that will fissile out in a week or two.  You do what I tell you or you’ll answer to me!”  The young apprentice agreed and stepped in line with his foreman.

The question becomes, “Who is really leading the company?”  There is little chance the culture will change in this scenario.  How would you use this experienced foreman, your “leader without stripes”, to be an advocate for the change?  Let’s look….

Take two:

“The Boss” asks for a meeting with the foreman prior to his announcement.  He asks the old sage for his advice on how to initiate a new idea regarding the culture of the company.  The business owner offers two scenarios and asks the experienced foreman which one he thinks would work best.  (It is important that both scenarios are acceptable to the business owner at this point.  The business owner should not offer a scenario that he does not agree with or want).  The foreman recommends the one he is most comfortable with.

Let’s re-look at the exchange between the young apprentice and his foreman.  After “The Bosses” speech the young apprentice was walking back to his department with his foreman and asked, “What do you think?  I think “The Boss” has a great idea there.”  The foreman’s new response goes something like this.  “Listen, where do you think “The Boss” got that great idea?  He got it from ME and if you don’t fall in and get behind MY new policy you’ll have to deal with me!”  The young apprentice smiles at the old foreman, the young guy knows the foreman likes to sound tuff but is really a softy at heart and will vigorously defend his guys.  Because of this relationship the apprentice is loyal to his foreman, loyal to a point where he would “walk through fire” for the old guy.  This is why in most cases the apprentice will take his marching orders from his foreman who will trump “The Boss” every time.

If you want to change a culture or initiate a major new policy within your organization you must understand who the “leaders without stripes” are and get them on board with your plans before you announce them, otherwise you have the potential to waste time and money.

-Gary Vaughan
Founding Member
Guident Business Solutions