Raising the level of your leadership

“Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here”

Executive_Office_Hallway1098468084There was nothing worse in junior high than being “called to The Office.” Nothing good ever happened in The Office. The best case was having to stay after school; the worst case was…well, use your imagination.

Back in the mid-80s, The Office in our Nashville plant was at the end of a long, dark mahogany row. Even walking down the hall was intimidating. It was a throwback to junior high. Who knew what was going on behind all those closed doors? Most employees called to The Office believed that Dante got it right when he wrote, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” Walking that long dark hall to The Office was like going to hell.

In 1985, we were blessed with a new leader who did three things to help change The Office culture:

  1. He took down the sign that said, The Office. Yes, we really had it.
  2. He had all the lights in the hallway turned on all the time to make it less foreboding.
  3. He had us leave our doors open all the time (unless we were having a truly confidential conversation) to help create a “you’re welcome, we’re accessible” environment.

Sadly, in too many organizations today, being called to The Office revives those junior-high fears. Leaders—who are actually bosses using fear as a leadership tool—sit behind their closed doors waiting to dispense Don Vito Corleone style discipline (check out The Godfather) to terrified employees. And then they wonder why the best and brightest don’t stay around long, why morale is so low, why productivity is so low, and why nobody ever tells them the truth about anything.

If your organization has a The Office culture, do something about it today! Open the doors and turn on the lights. Better yet, get out of The Office and walk the floors. Be visible, accessible, and personable. Fear is a lousy, ineffective leadership tool. If you use it, it is hurting you and your organization. And, it will continue to hurt until you do something to change it—starting with changing yourself.

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© Copyright 2013 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

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