Post by Tanya Goodwin-Maslach, contributing Women On Business writer
Let’s get straight to it shall we? This should be an easy one for most to figure out, but there were a few yuckity-yucks in Washington (D.C.) that had a tough time with it. So let’s see what you would do.
A professional photographer is hired to take a few glamour shots of Air Force One for the simple reason of “needing to update [Air Force One] photo files” (WSJ, April 28, 2009). “Where should we do it?” someone wonders. Oh I know, how about flying above Manhattan, above the Statue of Liberty. And don’t forget the fighter jet tail. We have to have the fighter jet detail, too.
How might’ve the rest of that conversation gone? Perhaps like this:
“Do we need to tell anyone?”
“FAA, but we’ll just ask them to keep it a secret – it’s a military operation after all. Let’s just give a ring to a junior aide in the NY Mayor’s office and ask him to keep it a secret, too.”
“And, we should tell the NYC police, too.”
“The public doesn’t need to know. It might concern them.”
Where’s the guy who steps in and says, “Why are we doing this?”
So, what does all of this have to do with your business?
1. What kind of culture do your managers cultivate?
Regardless of his position, that junior aide is an adult and presumably someone who knows what happened on September 11. Let’s assume he was alarmed by the notice that a 747 would be flying over Manhattan (really, really low), followed closely by a jet fighter, and he was supposed to keep it a secret. What about his work culture prevented him from walking into the Mayor’s office and asking for a quick chat?
- Managers should be explicit about what the team’s core values are and what they expect of each other in terms of behavior and upholding those values. What’s expected and what’s not acceptable. Period.
2. It rarely comes down to technical competence.
This episode may not be repeated in its absurdity in the halls, offices and cubicles of business, but the acts of those involved IS nevertheless repeated. Why? Because whether you’re in the mail room or creating the next best robot to do heart surgery, the simplest and gravest of errors occur between people – in relationships. Their skill, willingness and ability to bring up the hard stuff when it matters and have a person (or people) just as willing and able to listen, and be empowered to act, is at the core of how successfully teams of people save organizations from public embarrassment (in the best case scenario) or, much worse, loss of life in the worst case scenario (e.g., how well do the nurses and ER docs in your local hospital get along?).
We say “don’t sweat the small stuff,” but when the small stuff means just using a little common sense, trusting your gut and having a little chat with your boss about something you think might be a little off kilter, then the new aphorism of the day is “the devil is in the details”.
Onward and upward!