I worked for a company that had 1,200 employees.
Every one of us had a job to do, all related to providing broadband cable services to residential and commercial customers.
Since it was a business, it had owners that had certain expectations – a healthy return on their investment.
On that high level, the objective was clear – build the company up by steadily increasing its profits, until it is attractive enough to be sold with that healthy return.
But what about those employees? Was that high level objective really something that the vast majority of those 1,200 could sink their teeth into and rally around?
No, it wasn’t.
Move the viewfinder from cloud level to ground level, and you get a totally different perspective. There, in the local offices, were people just trying to make a good living, to forge a decent life for themselves and their families.
They were in their own little bubble, emmersed in the day-to-day challenge of serving customers 24 hours a day, in sometimes challenging conditions (geographically, meteorogically, and financally).
Sometimes, they looked outside the bubble and saw this thing called “corporate”.
A nameless, faceless blob that called all the shots from afar, changing the shape and direction of the bubble, but never piercing it.
They resented this blob, and the distance that it maintained from them, as well as distrusted it, because of the arbitrary and disappointing decisions that flowed from it.
And yet, despite all that, they managed to take pride in their work, and in their relationships with customers and each other, in trying to forge that decent life.
This “divergence of objective” between business stakeholders is a classic dilemma, existing in nearly every business that grows beyond a handful of founder/executives.
The businesses that succeed are the ones that can find a way to connect the dots between the high level and the ground level goals – to “pierce” that bubble, that barrier.
And the “bubble piercer” HAS to be a more human leader.
The more human leader puts a name and a face to “corporate”, by getting out and personally connecting with as many employees as possible, listening to their hopes and dreams, understanding and respecting THEIR work, and putting context on the high level goals by transforming them into a cause that everyone could rally around.
This is what I did in my role as a leader and executive for the broadband company.
We created a cause that was universally simple – serving customers, AND supporting each other.
IF we all did those two things, faithfully and well, then both the high level and ground level goals would be met.
We pitched this cause relentlessly and passionately, and humanly – person to person, at ground level.
And one day, after a lot of hard work, and thousands of conversations, we could hear it.
We pierced the bubble.
And boy oh boy, did things accelerate after that. It was like a flywheel that started to turn powerfully and effortlessly.
That’s what great more human leadership is all about.
Go pierce a few bubbles yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.