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Wednesday, November 5, 2014


My lovely bride of 37 years (Moe) is a retired teacher.  While teaching in the Austin, Texas, area in 2006, Moe asked one of her 2nd graders what kind of work her dad did for a living.  The youngster replied that her dad was a janitor.  The little girl said that whenever she asked her dad what he did at work, the answer was always the same: "Baby, I clean up messes all day."  

In fact, the girl's dad did spend a great deal of his time cleaning up messes.  Just not the kinds of messes that janitors and custodians deal with.  Turns our her dad was an executive at a multi-national computer company.

Leadership entails a healthy dose of mess cleaning.  

Messes get made when:

  • Important messages get miscommunicated or misinterpreted.
  • The processes/protocols of an organization get misaligned with its mission and/or vision.
  • Incentives end up rewarding the least productive or those who game the system.
  • Workplaces become toxic.
  • Self preservation trumps collective endeavor.
  • Motives become divorced from the goals of the organization.
Leaders who are diligent and consistent (even persistent) 
about messaging, 
about building and sustaining positive relationships, 
about recognizing and honoring effort as well as achievement, 
about insisting on authenticity and integrity (and model the same), 
still have to spend time cleaning up messes.  

But leaders who fail in those critical leadership manifestations spend a lot more time cleaning up messes. 

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