January 30, 2008
News & Opinion: Sleeping On the Job
I came across a book called The Eight Constants of Change by Stacy Aaron and Kate Nelson on my desk today and was reading a bit of it to myself during lunch and came across this little story:
A Real Life Example
A president of a mid-size company began work 18 months ago to define how his new, more complex organization needed to operate. Month after month, he stood in staff meetings and pronounced emphatically that the new, more complex organization would mean that everyone would have to play at a higher level.
Leadership demanded excellence from every single employee. For the first few months, the discussions got people excited about the future of their company and gave them pride in what they did and where they worked.
Then, this same company hired a young man as a manger in marketing. His task? To bring new ideas and energy to the group. Everyone liked him and he built strong relationships quickly. After a few months on the job, he started falling asleep at his desk on a regular basis....literally asleep!
At first, people thought it was funny and they would put hats on him or move things around on his desk while he slept to surprise him when he woke up. But after a while, the situation became a pathetic joke.
Recently, a review of all of the functions across the company was done, and leaders were surprised to find that the productivity and creativity of the entire marketing department had dropped in the last six months.
Leaders realized that the message of 'playing bigger' and 'excellence' had been lost as people walked past their sleeping new hire. Clearly, the talk of excellence was just talk if the organization was going to let a sleeping dog lie. It was a hard lesson for leadership, but they finally got it. They fired the guy and owned up to the mistake. They were also honest about the fact that they should have acted sooner and that they, too, were leaning how to take their company to the next level.
The organization recovered in time to make up for the temporary lag in productivity, and leaders built credibility and support from their staff in the process.
I entertained thoughts about what company this could have been.... hrmmmmm. Anyone have a guess? Let me know what you think.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.