This Probably Doesn’t Apply to You

This Probably Doesn’t Apply to You


We think: This doesn’t apply to me.  So, (first) let me talk about who it does apply to; namely, Lee Iacocca, at least according to Steve Miller, a former Chrysler exec who went on to become CEO of Delphi.  Miller writes in his autobiography that Iacocca did great things to rescue Chrylser, but says that later in Lee’s career, as he grew bigger than life, he also shrank into pettiness. Miller and Bob Lutz were being talked about as potential successors to Iacocca and with a photo-story of the two in Forbes magazine, they fueled that talk.  According to Miller, Lee “was furious.”

In, The Turnaround Kid: What I Learned Rescuing America’s Most Troubled Companies, Miller goes on to describe what he thought was going on: “I was added to his unofficial enemies list…It happens all the time. Rulers can’t seem to resist the urge to destroy potential successors. It’s almost an unconscious thing, based on some primal instinct for dominance and survival.” Some other words for this “primal instinct” are: ridiculous, outrageous, and more important, counter-productive. Why would a guy as big as Iacocca be threatened by other leaders whose efforts – and yes, even their ambition – could bring good things to a company that needed all the help it could get?

With Iacocca still in my head, I did my show Saturday on an idea-movement called ROWE – for Results Only Work Environment.  Jodi Thompson, the co-founder argues in her book that work really sucks when you’re treated like a kid, essentially told when to eat, how to do your homework, and when to go to bed.  A caller named Margaret articulately described her twenty-five experience with her employer, and complained about managers who were not leaders, people who stifled creativity and imagination and fixated on controlling people’s time, scope, and access to information.  I thought Margaret was so good that I treated her like I would an expert and asked her: “If you could tell these managers one thing that might help them to see, what would you tell them?”

She said she’d tell them that leaders aren’t threatened by talent, but instead they love to have their people shine. Iacocaa didn’t like his guys “shining” in a photo in a Viper. And Margaret ran into managers who’d harass her about being five minutes late; meanwhile they didn’t see her as the adult she was – happy to work until seven, or work at home, to make the project shine.  I titled this “this probably doesn’t apply to you,” because Iacocca would say “B.S., I hired great talent and set them free,” and so we, too, would deny we hold people down.  But then why are there so many times when people feel belittled, controlled, and micromanaged?

Maybe we need to take a second look at the degree to which we really treat our people like adults, and hope they will shine, even to one day take our jobs.  We’ve got to get big and get small – in the right ways,

To lead with your best self,


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  • I didn’t hear the radio program, but saw the article this morning and it really struck a nerve! I immediately thought of my husband’s employer, AT&T. My husband, who is a technician in the construction garage here in Lanisng, has 31 years on the job. He climbs in and out of manholes all day (no matter what the temperature or conditions) to splice fiber optics and copper cables among other duties. He does great work and do many of his colleagues. Even though they are experts at what they do, AT&T treats them like children. In the morning when they get their daily work assignments, their supervisors make them stand up next to a board that has their ‘production’ numbers on it to discuss why they’re not more productive in front of everyone. They can’t just talk about it; they have to come up front and stand up (sounds alot like kindergarden, doesn’t it?). The managers say it’s their bosses that require this. The measurement system they use to come up with the production numbers is flawed, since they don’t include half of the tasks they do every day, aside from the fact that they work on projects that take multiple days to complete, therefore being only one job, which to those who don’t understand their job looks like they don’t do much of anything. What’s more, they actually get suspended if they get hurt on the job! It’s as if the company believes that if you get hurt, it must be your fault!

    It’s this kind of behavior that caused me to leave the traditional workforce years ago and become a consultant. I too, had many instances in workplaces where I was treated with intimidation and harrassment by managers who were power-hungry and threatened by anyone who might have a good idea they didn’t think of themselves. It’s the Lee Iaccoa attitude you described that drives bright, creative, hard working people out of a particular workplace and dooms the company to mediocrity. Perhaps the colleges need to teach not only what a manager should do (logically) to retain a great workforce, but teach them how to handle it on an emotional level as well. The great leaders I know are people who embrace others’ ideas and encourage them to share their talents. They know they can’t do it alone and that they need other people to help them. If we had more leaders like that, people would love to come to work everyday and be ready to do their best!

  • Dan – Margaret brings to mind many of the challenges I faced, also for 25+ years, workinig as a business manager for a local company. Yes, I, too, was treated like a child, and rarely regarded as someone with brains who brought something to the company. When I “retired” 6.5 years ago from this company, I began work for a much smaller company and have found success in living the Golden Rule – treating others how I wish to be treated. Blessings and success are in abundance. Thanks.

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