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Relationship-Building: Climbing Down From Your Ivory Tower

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help your stay connected to your staff on and off the job.

The Presidential Bubble of limousines and jets at his command.

       The Bubble. That’s what President Barack Obama calls his well protected, highly scrutinized and very privileged  lifestyle of limousines,  jet planes and just about anything else at his beck and call.

        Likewise, in the corporate world, leaders can easily be swept into their own Bubble of sorts.

         After all, leaders in the executive suite don’t face the hard realities of every day life that their employees do.

        On the job, there are no executive dining rooms in the average employee’s world. And off the job, there are no country club perks in the average employee’s world. Off the job, there are no house keepers, nannies, chefs,  chauffeurs and gardeners  in the average employee’s world.

         That’s why I was pleasantly surprised the day I met the president of a billion dollar global company who lived in a middle class neighborhood. No gated community. No well secured condominium. In fact the president himself could be found on a Saturday afternoon mowing his own lawn at home.  Why,  I wanted to know? I just had to find out.           Why not move  into a CEO’s mansion? Why not at least commission a landscape company to handle your lawn work?

 All Employees Need Access to their Company President

         “No,” said the company president to a mild suggestion to move into  a mansion lightyears from his middle class neighborhood.  “They need access. All employees need to know they can talk to THEIR company president any time they need to.”

        Like me. On this Saturday afternoon. I worked for that company president, a leader who taught me the principles of leadership that I still follow today 20 years later. My key learning: climb down from your ivory tower and find out what is really going on from the rank and file.

       And do whatever you can– safely and securely– to make yourself approachable. Of course the company he ran had a well utilized Open Door Policy. But this president  reaffirmed that policy when word got out that employees could talk personally and informally on the lawn at the  President modest home on any Saturday afternoon.

        President Obama Bursts His Bubble for a Few Minutes at a Hamburger Joint

President Obama Checks the Menu at Five Guys Hamburgers near the White House

       Now there are all kinds of  security issues why that kind of openness would not be prudent today but the concept of  climbing out of your Ivory Tower every so often is still viable. Even President Obama frequents a hamburger joint near the White House every so often, albeit still with his 15-car limousine   entourage of Secret Service and various other staffers.

       So what can you as a leader do to more strategically climb down from your Ivory Tower to get your employee’s view on your company, short of you starring in your own version of Undercover Boss, The CBS network  television program where a CEO disguises himself to work anonymously along side a rank and file employeeConsider these three ideas to get you closer to the troops:

  1. HOBBY LOBBY:  Invite average employees to showcase their hobbies in the cafeteria . Have a day dedicated to Pottery or Model Airplane hobbyists etc. Invite leaders of the company to visit the exhibits and talk to employees during their lunch hours.
  2. COFFEE WAGON: Tour the manufacturing plants in a golf car toting hot coffee and donuts. Serve the coffee and donuts at key stops just before the work day begins. You might have to get up at 4 am just like some of your employees.
  3. RANDOM LUNCHES:  Invite 6-8 employees at random (perhaps those who share the same birth date or birth month for lunch with the president of the company.

What other initiatives have you used to climb down from your Ivory Tower? I look forward to your comments. Please use the Comments section below.

Today’s ImproveMINT
Stay in touch with the rank and file to really know what’s going on with your company and keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

You might also like these previous Leadership Mints on Relationship-Building:
Servant Leadership
Getting to Know You Intimately
Leaders Are Lovers

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When REPLYing, send TO PeterJeff@charter.net.

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