Two fires broke out on different sides of the world. The only thing that made these different from the thousands of fires that occur every day of our lives, was that both fires were raging in oil refineries. One fire was in America, the other in Japan.
In America, the Operation Director received a call at 4.30 am and rushed out of home to the oil field, breaking speed limits to get there as soon as possible. On arrival, he called in all his managers and started barking out orders from the well-known crisis plan. He donned his protective suit and rushed down to the fire accompanied by a fleet of vehicles. On arrival at the scene, he set up his field emergency tent and continued to bark orders to a group of nervous and worried personnel. They could see the worry and stress in the boss and felt his anxiety too. Vehicles came and went all day, meetings happened and plans changed. Just as the sun was setting the fire was officially ‘under control’. The Operations Director wearily climbed back into his car and drove home reflecting on what a good job he had done.
Meanwhile, across the Pacific, the Japanese executive arrived as normal in his office. He sipped a cup of tea and relaxed. He read the newspaper and reviewed some reports. He thought about his companies strategy for the Middle East market. Around mid morning he learned about the fire after it was under control. Subordinates explained how they had handled it. He congratulated them and made a note to reward them.
Moral of the Story:
Quite simply - give empowerment to your people. Individuals who are empowered to ‘get on’, frequently identify feeling recognized, respected, energized, consulted and thanked. That’s how the Japanese employees felt. On the flip side, the American team, although successful in controlling the fire would have felt used, ignored, lacking approval or appreciated. Which team would you rather be in?