I think it starts with a simple premise. The phone is ringing, so I answer it.“Thank you for calling CBI Group, Chris Burkhard speaking, I can help you!” However, everyday someone – a vendor, an applicant, a customer – seems so surprised when I answer the phone.
To be specific, this is when the phone rings into my company. We want to get the caller picked up in three, ideally two, or even one ring. We get busy like any other company and this job is bigger than anyone person who is primarily picking up the phone. We always have someone who does this most of their day. So where does the leadership thing show up in all of this? One of the hardest things for a leader to do is to show a balance of leading, directing, and doing. Trust is built when leaders do as they preach. Even if your company (mine) would prefer I stayed off the phones because I am not quite as good at it as some…
I have chosen a leadership model and organizational culture that is one of servant leadership while the business is organized in a flat, matrixed fashion. My goal is to squeeze the middle, empower my customer-facing staff, and force my leaders to work for them. Let that soak in. Empower the front line staff. Leaders work for them. So why should it come as a surprise when everyone in the company answers the phone? Habits. Experiences. Other places we work. All of these gained insights make it so much harder to buy-in.
However, how can an environment of equality exist unless the leaders do their best to be equal? Yes, roles are designed differently. Yes, some roles are critical to business success and very important to the success of a business. This does NOT mean that there is not a place for a team mentality.
Some environments are siloed – don’t dare talk to someone in another department without having department heads do the talking! Some environments promote hierarchy and fear. Leaders do this by being ominous and scary or by forcing conformity to a practiced culture that all dare not bend or break from tradition.
My tradition and hierarchy are such that people are people and they perform best when they feel valued and they can be themselves – and where teamwork is sacred. Teamwork is not an “opt-in” or “when and if I want to” kind of behavior. You’re either committed to the team or your not. NOT just on your favorite tasks or to help your office friend out. So leaders step in and out of what needs to be done for the team.
Stepping in and out can be hard. Do I roll up my sleeves everyday? When will I plan? When will I work on business problems and opportunities? How do I give feedback and do my leadership job? The answer lies within. But I can assure you if you never step in and help. Or worse yet, if you always dive in and help, you have a real opportunity to improve your leadership persona and have more impact!
So as ridiculous it is for you to think of someone’s President answering the phone because of their corporate culture, as a leader in an Outside-In company, not answering the phone is even more absurd to me!