A TRIBAL, energetic old woman is driving her carabao and cart down a rural dirt road when she gets pulled over by a strict barangay policeman. “You have an overloaded cart,” says the policeman. “But more importantly, one of your reins is looped around the carabao’s balls. That’s cruelty to animals. Have your husband take care of that right away. Next time, we’ll impound your carabao and cart.”
Later that day, the woman tells her husband: “A policeman pulled me over today for two violations. First, he said I got an overloaded cart.”
“Well, that’s easy to fix,” says her dutiful husband. “What else?”
The woman replied: “I’m not sure, but it has something to do with the emergency brake system.”
Last Friday (Oct 24), I was requested to moderate and reflect on the presentations of two guest speakers (out of 13) on the occasion of the 26th National Quality Forum of the Philippine Society for Quality at the Makati Shangri-la.
Due to lack of time, I applied an “emergency brake system” by not discussing my three-page reflection paper that I wrote while listening to the two presentations. Don’t get me wrong literally. I’m one person who likes talking and writing. But I know when to stop. That’s how I allowed the forum participants to raise questions to the speakers, who were management superstars in their own right.
You can imagine it. Anyone’s reflection is like castor oil. It’s easy to give, but dreadfully uneasy to take. Having that brake system was a wise decision for me as we received more than seven questions that we were constrained to stop the open forum to give way to the next sessions.
A question-and-answer portion in any event has a redeeming value for those who paid their way into that conference. Now, for those who would like to hear my thoughts, let me tell you that “leadership” is their common theme, among others. I mean, any corporate strategy can’t succeed without the CEO actively participating in it.
That brings us to the 320-hectare hacienda question: What degree of leadership do we expect from the CEO? It is a perplexing question. And you as subservient workers in a dog-eat-dog corporate world, you owe it to yourselves to give it serious thought.
Whenever I try answering this question, I would often use the story of the pig and the chicken. Of course, there is more to ham and eggs than cholesterol and heart attack. It’s a valid description of the commitment or involvement level of the CEO to a company’s project.
The pig and chicken fable tells it all before a farmer who wants to augment his income by putting up a restaurant. “Well, pig and chicken, listen, I want you to help me in my restaurant that will be offering ham-and-eggs dishes,” says the farmer.
The pig became agitated: “Mr. Farmer, that’s unfair! That means I’ll be committed to you by giving you my life for the ham. But the chicken is only involved as it can give you all the eggs you want without harming itself.” The chicken replies in jest: “Whoever said the world is fair?”
Any CEO is comparable to the Wizard of Oz—an omnipotent who has the luxury of deciding whether to be involved, like a Japanese salaryman in a karoshi (death from overwork) case, or committed (doing only saliva stories). You can also imagine this situation happening in many volunteer organizations, where people promise to help but at the end of the day the social loafers are nowhere.
The only way to find out the real intent of the CEO is for you to conduct a CSI-style investigation. First, you go back to his speeches. Second, get the main point by separating the motherhood statements from the action words. If you can’t understand which is which, then ask his speech writer. If the writer is not helpful or refuses to accept any responsibility, then be frank by saying:
“I don’t like the smile on your face.”
If that’s not helpful, the easiest solution is to pull out a loaded Colt revolver and threaten the CEO:
“Show me your commitment level or else . . . !” Fortunately, it is a crime to shoot a CEO. So you have no choice but to continue guessing till kingdom come.
Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random thoughts.