Every morning, it was the same.
The boss would appear sometime between 7.30 am and 9 am.
She’d walk up the stairs and look across what we called ‘the floor’. On the floor there were maybe 200 people tethered to desks. Their time was tracked to within an inch of its life; they were taking calls — mostly complaints; loads of them were new, because churn was high.
Going up to the team closest to the stairs, she would start with the person on the corner, and touch him or her gently on the shoulder, smile, and say hello. If she knew it was their birthday, she’d wish them a great day. If their kid had been sick, she’d enquire about their health. If they’d gotten a new puppy, she’d ask how it was settling in.
She would do that, one by one, throughout the entire floor.
As long as it took.
Very often, she would be asked a question about how to do this, that, or the other in a system that the boss had never used, much less looked at. She’d smile graciously and ask, ‘What do you think you should do?’ The person would reply, ‘Oh this, that, and the other’, and she’d respond, ‘well, why don’t you do that?’.
She gained a reputation for being a wizard at using the system. Few of them knew she’d never even touched it.
The boss also had a known open‐door policy. She told everybody when they were first onboarded that this was the case. For minions on the phones, they were advised to go to their team leaders first, in every case, but that she was a backup. For team leaders, she was the go‐to, if they couldn’t resolve something amongst themselves.
Even during the busiest times of the year, even when she was:
- working 14‐hour days
- interrupted every two minutes
- figuratively pummelled to within an inch of her life
… her door was still open, she’d still put her people first, and she was still smiling.
Even if the smile was a little strained, it was still there.
That woman was an incredible leader. Just watching her was instructive. (And you bet I watched her.)
She taught me nearly everything I know about managing large, in‐person teams.
The moral of this story is that leaders do what they say they will do.
If you want yourself (or your business) to be a sought‐after ‘thought leader’, publishing is the best way to achieve it. Mark you this, though: It’s a serious decision.
Because if you don’t (won’t, can’t) do what you say you’ll do — especially in publishing — who is going to follow you?