Once upon a time there was a very successful CEO who was brought in to turn a company around. Most of the workers had been through several changes in management before and like all long time employees, they’d learned to be invisible. They simply went to their job everyday, did what they were supposed to do, and collected their paycheck. And like at many companies that were at one time successful, but were now losing money, the employees simply defended what they did by saying “We’ve always done it that way.”
So the CEO called a meeting of the staff. Rumors flew before the meeting and the most senior folks there knew what was coming. The cheerleading speech, the rah-rah, and the changes the CEO would implement for the same reasons the employees did what they did. He would do what he’d done everywhere else.
The CEO walked into the meeting followed by a beautiful Golden Lab. As the CEO started to talk, the lab sat patiently next to him. The employees were stunned at the brevity of the meeting.
“I just want to say I am happy to be here and look forward to working with you. I know you are aware of the financial difficulties we face, but we’ll figure it out.. And I want you to meet Bob.” He pointed to the dog.
Bob raised one paw and waved. The employees all laughed.
“So let’s get to work.”
Huh? Really? That’s it thought the staff.
The next morning, Bob was seen wandering through the halls. Every now and then, Bob would go into an office and simply watch the employees. It made some of them a bit nervous, like he was spying on them. This went on for about a week. The CEO also walked the halls and said hi to people, but that was about all he did.
The employees now were distracted. They were uncomfortable wondering why this new guy was hired…and what was with the dog? The rumors continued to fly. “He won’t last long.” “What a waste of a huge salary.” Eventually some of the employees tried to get information from the CEO. Some sucked up to him. Others looked him up on the internet. All they could find was that he was considered an expert in turnarounds. Despite his reputation, many of the employees refused to believe it. This was their company and they knew what worked…despite the fact the company was close to bankruptcy.
But the CEO knew what he was doing. It was not about the company, but the people. And he had an unusual way of determining who would make the cut.
In the second week, Bob continued his office visits, but there was an added wrinkle. Every once in a while, Bob would lift his leg and pee on the employee’s leg.
Most of them were outraged. Pissed, in fact. (excuse the pun). Despite this clearly inappropriate behavior, none of them would say anything to the CEO. But the talk flew around the office, and most of the employees began closing their door to keep Bob out. They developed an elaborate system amongst themselves to warn each other when Bob was coming down the hall.
As he always did, the CEO just watched. He still walked the halls and asked people how they were doing. They all told him things were fine despite their outrage.
After another week of this the place was in a frenzy so the CEO called another meeting.
He walked in the room with Bob by his side and announced that he had formulated his plan for moving the company forward. That plan was nothing more than promoting certain people within the organization. As he announced the promotions, a buzz started. How in the world was he making these decisions?
Each person promoted was asked to come forward and as they did, Bob walked up to them and rubbed against their legs. They, in turn, leaned over to pet him. The other employees simply did not understand.
Finally, one of the more senior folks couldn’t take it anymore, feeling he was a logical choice for promotion. He’d been there for years and had put in his time.
“How did you decide who to promote?” he asked.
“I didn’t decide. Bob did,” said the CEO.
“How can a dog decide who deserved a promotion?” one employee asked.
“Raise your hand if Bob paid you a visit in the last couple of weeks,” said the CEO. Most of them raised their hands, including those who had been promoted.
“Raise your hand if Bob peed on your leg.” Again most of them did, especially the more senior folks.
The CEO pointed to the man who had challenged the promotions and asked him a simple question.
“What did you do when Bob peed on your leg?”
“I got mad and hit him on the head. The I kicked him out and closed my door so he didn’t come back.”
The CEO pointed to one of the women he’d promoted and asked the same set of questions.
“Well, I wasn’t happy about it, but I figured there wasn’t anything I could do about it. The next day when he came back into my office, I took him for a walk outside and he peed. He’s come back everyday since.”
The people the CEO had promoted nodded. They had done the same thing. They figured it out. They liked Bob visiting them.
“None of you came and talked to me about it. If you’d asked me, I would have stated the obvious. Bob needed to go out. Most of you, though, were so scared of losing your job, of me, that you let the fear dictate how you responded. That’s not leadership.
“Furthermore, you did not take the time to figure out what was happening. These people did. If we are going to get things going in the right direction here, we need to start over, to figure out what works. We’ll start with these folks. Thanks for coming.”
And he grabbed Bob and took him outside for a walk….