The leadership ATM

Mar 1, 2011

Like most people, I’d rather straighten out a paperclip and stick it in my eye than stand in a queue at the bank.Thankfully, the fine folks at Bank of America are equally averse to making the equivalent investment in tellers and real estate, and as a result have gradually amped up the processing abilities of the humble ATM. These days there’s thankfully precious little I need to stand in line for. At any nearby ATM I can (of course) get cash out, but I can also make deposits and generally complete any but the most arcane of transactions.

Which begs the question, does your leadership style require everyone to come to the bank and stand in line? Or have you de-invested and put a bunch of ‘clever ATM’s’ around the place?

Not literally of course (although I know some ‘leaders’ who do, literally, have people standing in line waiting for their alleged pearls of wisdom). I mean figuratively speaking, is your leadership style one which operates primarily in a set-piece, resource-heavy manner? Or do your people also have light-touch, easy-access, asynchronous ways to get to you?

If you’re spending a lot in time in meetings or conference calls, and/or ensnared in unending email chains, then you’ve got the equivalent of a lumbering ‘bricks-and-mortar’ leadership investment, and you need to consider planting some ATM’s around the place to take the weight off.

Consider implementing things like:

* A discussion board where people can drop non-time-critical queries, and to which you can respond when you have down time, traveling or otherwise;

* A monthly broadcast ‘phone call where you take Q&A’s on a range of topics from a rotating sub-set of your team – maybe the legal folks this week, marketing the next, production the week after that;

* A bi-weekly ‘gym’ where you sit in a conference room and talk with anyone who walks in (20-minute limit per person);

* A dynamic FAQ where you post your answers to the questions you’re mostly frequently asked about your company culture, how you do things and how you expect other people to do things;

* Go to the airport frequently? Or have a regular drive every week – to a meeting, an industry ‘do’, or a regularly scheduled lunch? Make a point of grabbing a staff member on the way out the door – the deal is, they drive you to your destination, and in turn can ask you anything they want. They can also take the car back to the office, and for your return, somebody else can come pick you up, same deal. A great way to do some informal mentoring or just hash out some gnarly issues with a colleague.

Find ways to plant ‘leadership ATM’s’ around the place. Take the weight off your leadership system.