Keeping up and understanding what it takes

Being a Ray, I was in the back of the room every year in grade school. In those days, teachers were fond of alphabetical seating. During the summer of 1961, our family moved from Flemingsburg, Kentucky to Beallsville, Ohio. I began my third grade of school as usual in the back of the room. Mrs. Steed’s class was a large group of thirty some students and the classroom was long and narrow. So, I was farther back than in previous years.

I found it very hard to see what the teacher wrote on the board. Unfortunately, the teacher thought I was a difficult child since I asked questions about the instructions she had written on the board.

Mom and Dad didn’t take us kids to doctors of any kind unless the situation was dire. It was both a financial thing and a common practice of the day. My parents must have realized I had a problem seeing and took me to an optometrist. The result was a diagnosis of nearsightedness and a brand new pair of black horn-rimmed glasses. None of my two brothers or sister needed glasses. I was the only sibling with this dysfunction.

With my new pair of glasses, I saw the world was very different than I thought. I didn’t know I had poor eyesight. I just thought life was fuzzy. I was exhilarated with the vivid greens of distant trees and the redness of the barn. Everything was new and exciting.

Few of my peers wore glasses so I stood out. I occasionally got the usual nickname of four-eyes but the blessing of sight was worth the ribbing.

The hardest part was protecting the expensive eye ware during rough play with my two brothers. At least a couple of times a year, an innocent wrestling match resulted in broken glasses. White tape was the convenient remedy. With repeated accidents, the time between the breaking of the glasses and replacements grew longer and longer. However, Mom always made sure my glasses were replaced before school pictures were due.

Since those days of youth, I have found a number of times when I believed the world was a certain way and then a revelation informed me of a new reality.

I, often, tell my clients that the further up the organizational chart you go, the less you understand the reality of what it takes to do the work of the organization and the things workers go through to do their jobs. It is like the Michelin Man, each promotion puts a layer of insulation between us and the workers.

The best leaders I work with readily acknowledge this fact. I know that the demands on leaders today are greater than at any time of my work life. However, I recommend that leaders talk to employees at all levels and ask them about the struggles they have every day. The more leaders keep in touch with the difficulty the workers have in doing their jobs, the better their decisions will be to enable employees to succeed. The best leaders get out of their offices and seek to understand the reality of what it takes to do the job the customer wants.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of “The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success,” visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.

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