Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two Bosses

A Tale of Employee Engagement

As I write this blog entry, I’m sitting in sunny Las Vegas in March. This is my chance to get away, clear my head, and do some writing. But as I was preparing for this vacation, I had a quick flashback to a conversation with a boss, many years ago.

I had been a manager for several years, but this was my first executive position. I was with a new company, in a new city, and excited about my future. One of the key benefits of being an executive was the three weeks of vacation that came with the position. I had little kids, so this was a real plus for me.

I’d been with the company for about 2 months when the topic of vacation came up rather innocuously. I mentioned that I was excited about having 3 weeks off to enjoy my kids and growing family.

“Well,” the boss said, “you get 3 weeks of vacation, but take 4.”

“Excuse me?” was my reply.

“These are high stress jobs,” he told me. “It would be better for the company if you took 2 vacations of two weeks each, rather than 3 single weeks.”

I was puzzled, and it probably showed on my face.

“When you go on vacation,” he continued, “it will take you a week just to relieve the stress. Then the second week you can actually relax and enjoy yourself.”

“Wow! That’s really nice of you.”

“Nice has nothing to do with it,” he snorted in reply. “This is not about you, it’s about the company. I need you at 100%. I need you fresh and creative. I need you to tackle the big challenges. And you won’t be able to do that if you don’t get the proper time away.”

As I got to know this boss better, I realized that he was right. He was not being nice. It wasn’t in his personality. What was in his personality was the ability to get the most from the people who worked from him. And giving me and others an extra week of vacation to really clear our minds was one way of getting the maximum from his people.

Contrast this with a later boss who had a different view of vacation. I witnessed a number of pre-vacation conversations between him and my co-workers. Those conversations went like this:

“Bill, we need to take a look at our hours per install and create some action plans to reduce them by 25%. I’ll need that plan from you by next Friday.”

“Ok. I’ll have my staff work on it next week while I’m out. I can either get it to you early Monday after I’ve returned or they can give you a draft that I haven’t reviewed on Friday.”

“No. I don’t want your staff involved in this. I want you to do it. And I want it by Friday.”

“But I’m off next week on vacation.”

“You’ve got a laptop, right? And a cell phone? And an internet connection? That’s all you need for this. Get me that analysis by Friday.”

I was privy to a number of conversations like this. In fact, none of my peers ever took a vacation that did not have one of these requests attached to it. Several times the request was not to complete the report while on vacation, but to cancel the vacation entirely.

Can you guess which boss got the most from his employees? Care to guess which employees always went the extra mile to ensure things were done right, on time, and under budget?

Even though that first boss was definitely not being nice to us, he did understand what we needed to be successful, and he made sure that we got it. His primary focus was on the company getting what it needed, but he ensured success by doing the right things for the employees.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:

• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post Dave,

    And it is a point well taken. I recently left a company where nobody and I mean nobody took vacation that was not a working vacation. It was all hands on deck all of the time. And they wondered why people were leaving.

    I am still waiting for that vacation...

    Keep up the good work.