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Chris LoCurto

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August 31, 2011

Bound By The Chain Of Command

August 31, 2011 | By | 14 Comments">14 Comments

Yesterday, we launched the second EntreLeadership Podcast, and it’s taken off like crazy. Thank you to all who are subscribing and making it the No. 1 business podcast and No. 2 podcast overall. If you haven’t listened to it, click on the image to the right.

As part of the podcast, we’ve invited you to ask questions. Here’s a fantastic one from Tim:

Mr. LoCurto,

I heard your EntreLeadership podcast the other day. Very nice. I enjoy something new to listen to from Mr. Ramsey. Now, where I work I am not a leader, manager or supervisor. I’m just a frontline IT support person. In the first podcast, you spoke about an employee emailing Mr. Ramsey directly about a ted.com presentation.  Did that violate the chain of command at your company?

Where I work, if I emailed the service center VP (someone about four levels above me), I would be written up so fast my head would spin (due to violating the chain of command), and I even know the VP a little bit.  If I wanted to send something to the service center VP, I would have to send it to my supervisor, who would send it to his supervisor, and on up the chain.

Also, when you do the leadership feedback meetings, how do the employees know what they say won’t be later used against them?  I could see an employee thinking they would be marked as a troublemaker or as someone who is not a team player if they bring up something that is too critical.

I’m just looking for your input/feedback based on my experience over my career in the IT industry.

Peace be with you,

Tim

Thanks, Tim, for a great question. First things first, we don’t go by our last names. Just call us Chris and Dave. As for the chain of command, I think it is absolutely vital and Biblical. Jethro saw that Moses couldn’t handle managing all of the people, so he counseled him on setting up leaders over them.

Wisdom says that you can’t have every team member bogging down one leader. We recently discussed in one of our Leadership Council meetings that, for the sake of time, we would not bring up issues that could be addressed by a team member’s immediate leader.

The difference between our culture and yours is that our leaders are accessible, and our team knows it. Our leadership team has to be accessible to our team members. It’s part of our culture. Without it, we would have a lot of suppressed, unappreciated, do-the-least amount-to-get-the-job-done employees. We don’t want that! Therefore, our team members understand the need to respect the chain of command, but they know it’s not law.

As for the leadership feedback, we don’t keep a score of team members as troublemakers for telling leadership of issues. Instead, we fix the issues, or we show why it’s not one.

I’ve seen the environment that you’re in, and I know it makes you scared and cautious like a whipped puppy instead of on fire and ready to run like a thoroughbred. We prefer thoroughbreds around here.

Question: How accessible are you and your leadership team?

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  • http://gravatar.com/lgthaxton Louise Thaxton

    The culture of our company is that anyone can call the CEO at any time. He is totally accessible to anyone. Some have criticized him for that – but that is the culture he envisioned years ago when he started this company and he remains true to his vision.

    And on our individual teams – we all are accessible to each other – no matter the job title – anyone can go to anyone about anything.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Amen!!

  • jennifer

    Chris,
    Thanks for a great post. What about a company where it feels as though all decisions have to be made by committee or consensus? I love where I work, but sometimes it feels as though everyone has to be involved in every decision.

    Thanks again….

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Usually that has leaders that are what we call a high S personality. They want everyone happen and as little conflict as possible. They are very diplomatic in their ways. Unfortunately, you end up without a head that can make decisions. Not the best process.

  • http://twitter.com/ibnabeeomar ibn abee omar (@ibnabeeomar)

    the worst situation for me was we had roughly 3 or 4 managers in less than 24 months. the new management team tasked myself and another “leader” (in responsibility, but not in pay or position) in our group to give suggestions on how to fix our team.

    team was currently suffering from every dysfunction – people hiding skills/knowledge, no communication, petty politics, etc etc etc.

    we talked to everyone on the team, got their biggest 2-3 gripes, came up with ways of addressing them – represented those suggestions individually to each member to get their buy in, THEN presented this ‘foolproof’ plan to a leadership team (ie managers about 2-3 levels up the totem pole). in all our minds, this was the last ditch effort after mounting stress and frustrations.

    Their response? they told us they loved it and would implement it immediately?

    Their actions afterwards? totally didn’t do anything we asked, then went and hired a manager that was the opposite of every single skill this team needed and exacerbated the problem. end result after that? the top 4 or 5 people (including myself) all quit.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      HAAAAAA!!!!! Wow!!!! And they wonder why you guys left.

  • http://twitter.com/ibnabeeomar ibn abee omar (@ibnabeeomar)

    loved this article. ive seen the exact same thing in corporate culture time and time again, its pretty demoralizing.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Every time. Thanks Omar!

  • http://ericspeir.com/ Eric Speir

    That was a great question. It’s true that the leadership culture determines those types of things. In the organization that I am a part of I have an executive above that I can bring anything to him but I do have the option of going to my senior leader. I trust my executive so I don’t have to go above him for anything.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      That’s where it matters. No trust equals fear.

  • chris

    Chris: Does your company do anything like this?

    We have a contest at work that is called The Big Pitch. You can pitch any idea that you have for our business, and it doesn’t have to be related to what you work on or even fully fleshed out. You have 3 minutes to present your idea and 2 minutes for judges questions. The top finalists get to work with an executive to make it happen, and then there is a “Fan Favorite” award that is voted by the audience really just for bragging rights.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Dude, I love that idea! Not only is it bolstering the team members brain power, but it’s creating a unity in the WHOLE company like no other! Great stuff Chris!

  • Greg LeBre

    Good morning Chris, It’s a shame this guy feels the way he does. I found a really great book by a fighter pilot called ‘Business is Combat” where they describe the Air Force aviator: plan, brief, execute, evaluate/debrief concepts. Everyone has a say in the debrief no matter the rank, In fact rank patches are left in a cup outside the debrief room. Everyone has equal right to critique anyone in the flight without fear of repercussion.. It is done with respect and professionalism so it is a true learning experience. Rank is put on upon exiting the debrief and respect for rank and seniority are maintained but not used as a threat in the debrief. They do a seminar called Afterburner seminars. No I don’t work for them yet but have considered it. Love your blog.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      HAHAHA…this paid endorsement by… I love it! That atmosphere allows for the team to get the the bottom of every issue instead of dancing around them. Thanks Greg!