Leading from the Trenches

By Philip Bowers | Posted: 06/11/2013 3:18PM

 

I recently saw a cartoon that had a silhouette of a man sitting on a throne being pulled by 3 other silhouettes; the caption read “Boss” with an arrow pointing to the man in the throne. Underneath was another cartoon. It was very similar except for one major difference. The throne was empty and there were 4 silhouettes pulling the throne with a caption that read “Leader”, pointing to the man at the front of the tow line. That had a very powerful impact on me. I had an epiphany!

Philip Bowers is President at Advanced Cabinet Systems, an architectural casework and retail store fixture manufacturer based in Indiana. We have a slogan here at ACS that reads “Keep Calm and Change the Game”. What does “Change the Game” mean? Well, whatever you want it to mean at the time. To me, now, it means that I need to switch some things up in my daily schedule. I need to “Change the Game” and get creative with my leadership style. Why not? So I called my management team together and we began brainstorming. Do we put in a rotating CEO program? No, too complicated. Do we put in a CEO for a day program for different employees? Nah, we don’t want to drive our employees crazy! Do I take on additional responsibilities or takeover another department? I don’t think that’d be good for anybody! So what’s game changing? What will be effective and transformational and at the same time be looked at positively by the entire team? We got it! Send me down to get my hands dirty, let me lead from the trenches.

After more discussion and planning, it started to sound like a really great idea. Overall there are many different benefits of doing something like this. First and foremost is education. I get the opportunity to learn how each part of our business is run FIRST HAND by the guys and girls who do it every day. Now this isn’t me going down there and getting a lesson from the manager or running department; I must be clear about that. I will be doing work with the team until I learn how it’s done and how, or if, it could be improved. From there, we will work together and ferret out any inefficiencies that need to be addressed, tie up any loose ends that are currently dangling, or reward for jobs well done. Another benefit from doing this is camaraderie. Wouldn’t you love to give your boss that task you don’t want to do? Or get an opportunity to show off how you do your job? There have been several occasions where I’ve been chatting with friends about their jobs and they say things like “If only management would do this and that, our company would run so much better and we’d save so much time and money…” I’d be stupid to think that people aren’t saying those things about ACS…are they saying those things about the company you and your team are running? Yes.

Unconventional? Eh, not nowadays. Leadership has changed so much over the years but I still believe that the more a leader can connect with people and get their buy-in the more successful the entire organization will become. Why not try this in your organization? If you’re thinking to yourself “I started from the bottom and climbed my way to the top so I don’t need to do this.” Well, so did I. And in the midst of all the climbing I was distracted with all of the different tasks at hand that I did not have time to keep up with how each area of the business changed. We’ve grown, we’ve added new processes and people, and we’ve created new departments, and implemented new policies. It’s a completely different business now than it was when I first began plugging away, and it should be!

If you’re going to do something like this you must have a huge amount of trust in your leadership team. They must support this and must be willing to put additional effort in to helping run the business. There is no way I would be able to do something like this if I did not have a stellar leadership team on my side.

So what are you waiting for? Are you going to try this? If this doesn’t light you fire then try something different that will. I’ll be writing up a follow-up blog on how this progresses. I will also put together and publish the schedule that I will be following as I work through our organization. Wish me luck!


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About the Author

Advance Cabinet Systems casegoods cabinetry Phil Bowers

Philip Bowers

Philip Bowers is President at Advanced Cabinet Systems, an Indianapolis, IN-based architectural casework and retail store fixture manufacturer.

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