One of the truly picturesque events of the fall season is the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in early October. It got me thinking about a story I once heard about a man in a hot air balloon …
It was a perfect fall afternoon with deep blue skies, a light breeze and warm temperatures. As he drifted above the rolling hills in the countryside – hypnotized by the majestic quilt of fall colors beneath his soaring balloon – the man realized he had lost his bearings.
He slowly brought the balloon closer to the earth and spotted a woman in a field down below.
“Do you know where I am?” he asked.
“Yes, you’re in a hot air balloon,” she replied, somewhat indignantly.
“Well, technically you’re correct, but that’s not what I’m asking you,” said the man, somewhat miffed.
“Are you in management?” the woman asked.
“How’d you know?”
“Well, you don’t know where you are. You don’t know where you’re going. And now it’s apparently my fault that you’re lost and confused.”
Sound like any managers you know? If you’ve ever worked for a manager like that, you’ve probably spent a great deal of time as a frustrated employee. If you have ever been guilty of managing people with that mindset, you probably learned through experience that it doesn’t work.
Though I don’t remember the origin, a colleague once told me of a bit of wisdom he had taken to heart regarding the four things employees want from their managers. I have never forgotten it. Your employees want to know:
- Can I trust you?
- Do you know where we’re going?
- Do you have a plan to take us there?
- What is my role?
If you have established trusting relationships, if you have communicated your vision and your plan, and if your employees clearly understand and embrace their individual roles, congratulations. You are quite likely a successful manager. If any of those are missing, your employees may think you’re full of hot air!