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Speak Loudly & Carry a Sledgehammer

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you inspire with more than words. Reading time: 2:12.

          The founder of the McDonald’s hamburger empire was fuming mad. Ray Kroc was so hot that you could have grilled a Big Mac on his forehand.

          The Golden Arch patriarch wanted his store managers to spend more time with customers in the front of the store and less time  sitting on the wooden chair in the office in back of the store. He sent each store manager a hand saw and a message: “Saw off the back of your chair.”

        Apocryphal or not, the story illustrates Kroc’s passion to continuously improve performance, a passion that is the crux of leadership that embodies, embraces and espouses a can-do, will-do, spirit, energy and drive.

        The saw-off-the-legs-of-the-chair story also illustrates a key skill of the most inspiring leaders: They speak loudly and carry a big stick (or saw), especially in steering an organization through culture-busting change.

        Words are hardly necessary. The action speaks  louder than any words. Consider the way a new  Xerox division leader spent his first day on the job. In the parking lot. Painting.

         He took off his coat and tie, dipped a paint brush into a gallon of black paint and painted over the well-marked executive parking spaces.  He was waging a campaign for greater customer service and that meant more teamwork and less corporate vs. workers mentality.  No more executive parking places. His parking space was the first to feel his “pain-t.”  Gone were any highly visible executive perks in the spirit of building greater trust throughout his division.

       Sometimes leaders have to speak loudly and carry a big stick (or saw or even a sledge-hammer) when an organization has been so successful it resists change.

       Words melt in the mouths of executives before they ever reach the open air. Words can’t match the awesome power of action, especially counter-intuitive action like that of the newly named  chief executive officer at Corning, the glass manufacturer.

          The new CEO wielded a sledgehammer to literally carve out a new corporate direction in front of hundreds of shocked sales staff attending a company-wide meeting on the future direction of Corning. He got their attention,  pulverizing more than $1 million of decorative glass that had made Corning famous and successful.

         Shattering the glass “menagerie” of the past would better pound out  a more profitable future direction of the company.  With a sledge-hammer that everyone and anyone could hear to make a smashing success. Where’s your sledgehammer in carving out a new direction for your department or company?

 Today’s ImproveMINT

Speak up boldly and carry a big stick  to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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