About a month ago my son and I visited two of his sons in Illinois. One is seven and one is four. When it is snowing outside and you have a small hotel room there just isn’t that much to do with a seven and four year old—especially when they’ve seen all the kid’s movies playing at the theater. So, we decided to take them bowling.
It has been a while since I took kids this young bowling. Even the lightest of balls is still heavy for kids. The way to make it a fun event is to make sure they put the bumpers up on the sides of the lane so the ball can’t go in the gutter. If you don’t do this every roll will end up being a gutter ball and it just won’t be fun for anyone (regardless of how much pizza you buy them!)
I’ve never seen a bowling ball bounce between the rails five or six times like I did those couple of days. The kids, of course, wanted the bumper off. We told them when they could actually roll it down the lane six times in a row, without hitting a gutter, we would do that. We never had to remove the bumpers, though. We went bouncing merrily along.
Isn’t that what leadership is often about? Keeping people between the bumpers?
Here is an example. You need your CSRs in your office, ready to take phone calls by 8 a.m. each day. You also need them to stay on the phones until 5 p.m. to make sure your customers are taken care of. This doesn’t mean 8:15 or 4:45, it means you are relying on them to do their job every day between 8 and 5. The bumpers are the boundaries make sure they understand your expectations. If you didn’t have these bumpers many people would come in when they wanted and leave when it was most convenient for them, not for your customers!
Are you are a company that requires your technicians to wear uniforms? Even the most highly paid athletes in the world have to wear a uniform. If they don’t wear it the right way they have to pay a fine.
Chicago Bear, Brandon Marshall, wore green cleats to promote Mental Health Awareness Week for the October 13th game last year against the Giants. Because he chose to do that he received a fine of $10,500 from the NFL. The NFL sets up bumpers, or boundaries, to make sure the image of the league is maintained. Imagine if they let players wear whatever they wanted?
I recently heard of a situation where a technician took the company truck out at night. After a few drinks, he got into a terrible traffic accident and someone was killed. Imagine looking in the paper the next day and seeing your van on the front page with the headline, “Woman Dies in Accident with (your name here) Van?” What does that do to your reputation as a company? If you have clear bumpers, and you manage your team to stay within those boundaries, the likelihood of events like this diminishes.
You may have to explain to your employees why you set up rules or bumpers. Most often it is to provide customers better service or protect the integrity of your company. If you are afraid to set these up, think again. Usually there is a consequence if you don’t.
As a leader you have an obligation to set them up … for everyone.