My wife and I are fans of the PBS Masterpiece program Victoria. I have noticed throughout the series the seriousness with which Queen Victoria took her role and responsibility to Britain. In the most recent episode, Cholera has broken out in Soho and Londoners are scared.
Her advisors are telling her to stay in the palace, they are making the same old arguments about health and well being that they have made for years (The dogma of experience. I note that in many professions there is a dogma that develops as people get caught in the inertia of the industry). Think back to video stores as Netflix came out or the railroad industry as airplanes developed. Think about the legacy healthcare system in the US in the face of new entrants.
Queen Victoria recognizes that the people need to see her and her confidence to maintain theirs. She arranges a trip to the hospital that is managing most of the choleric patients. There she learns, from a nurse, about the one doctor that is visiting the hospital trying to figure out the cause.
How often have you seen managers withdraw in the face of difficulty? I remember Mark a colleague (names changed) Who when he was promoted into management he disappeared into his private office. The only time he came out was to meet the requirements of field ride-alongs that executives had set to prevent managers from being too removed from the field.
In the three or four trips Mark took with me, he often had me drop him at a hotel so he could “take care of bigger business.”
Mark was not in touch with the business and within a year he was removed, and a new leader put in place. A former Marine Captain (Ret.), Barry, was in the field often. He was always available for a call and he wanted to meet the customers and get into the business. With Barry in charge of the region, the region flourished, and we landed some very large accounts and several of his representatives received national recognition.
What Barry and Queen Victoria recognized was the power of presence. Not necessarily having the answer but being in the trenches working with their teams to find the answers. I know often in my career I defaulted to the expert position where I thought I had to have the answer. I now know that helping my clients search for and discover their own answers is often (OK, Always) more valuable than if I provide the answer.
How can you take these lessons forward?
1. Get out where your team can see you. As a leader you represent the purpose, the organization, the mission that they are working for.
2. Be curious about what the people in front know. They almost always know more about what is happening with patients and customers than you do.
3. Be clear about your role. Queen Victoria and Barry were very clear that they were there to serve their team.