What would you do if the most popular chair in your company were broken? If it were the boss's chair, would you fix it right away? If it were your chair, would you fix it right away?
How about if it were an employee's chair?
One day a secretary in our Everlasting Valve division walked up to controller Dick Base and said, "Dick, the toilet seat in the ladies' restroom is very loose."
"I'll get it fixed right away," Dick said, and following proper procedures, he called the maintenance crew and asked them to take care of it.
Two weeks later:
"You know, Dick, the seat still isn't fixed."
Dick couldn't believe it. He immediately went down to the engineering department to get some tools. Then he walked over to the ladies' restroom. After knocking to make sure it was empty, he entered, and while still wearing his three-piece suite, got down on his hands and knees and fixed the seat. He was going to make sure that the problem was fixed today! And thanks to Dick, it was.
The Moral of the Story
Leading by example sends a powerful message. I'm sure every manager at Everlasting Valve now realizes just how important taking care of your people really is. Having your division's controller fix a toilet seat, while wearing a three-piece suit, sends this message loud and clear.
Creating a sense of urgency in everything is vital. By putting his work aside and immediately going to fix the seat, Dick gave everyone an example of what it means to "take action now." Dick did not put it off until the next day because he had too much work to do or because he was wearing a nice suit. He took care of the problem right then.
Leaders listen. Paying attention and active listening (really listening) are key traits of successful leaders. Dick listened to the secretary's complaint and really cared. Understand, this was in the ladies restroom. The toilet seat really didn't matter very much to him personally, since he uses the men's room. But Dick cares about his people. He paid attention, listened, and fixed the problem. No problem is too small to fix.