Have Yourself a Very Tacky Christmas

joe —  Sun 11-Dec-11

GeometryMy mom is an amazing woman. Actually, she’s not my mom, she’s Beth’s mom. I just refuse to add the “in-law” tag as she defies all the imagery of a typical in-law.

This week Mom reminded me of how important it is to show your homework.

Mom and her family business bank at one of the mega corporations here in Atlanta. She loves this place. She loves the people, the service, and the way they make her feel special when she walks in the door. Not your typical mega-bank.

This week she noticed them putting together a Christmas tree in the corner of her branch. When she commented on how nice it was to see them putting one up, one of the branch staff indicated they were actually taking it down. “Corporate orders”, they said with resignation.

CHristmas Lights TackyThis of course incensed my mom to the point of actually writing to the bank. Having crafted a beautiful letter to the branch manager, she received a genuine thank you and was asked if he could send this to the corporate offices.

To the amazement of Mom, a corporate executive responded. He thanked her and indicated that they were not taking the trees down for political reasons. They were coming down because some of the branches got carried away and the decorations bordered on being very unprofessional. Being a corporation they really needed to adopt a formal policy that could be adopted by everyone but that would take time. In the interest of trying to regain some professionalism they decided to just remove the decorations.

In a nation where Christmas is being altered every year to appease political correctness it is easy to understand why Mom would come to her conclusion. It is equally understandable why a bank executive would need to try and keep a good professional image for his organization.

Polar Bear HomeworkYet in the middle of all of this were hundreds of branch managers and their employees who were only told to remove the decorations. They of course followed orders but didn’t know why.

Imagine if the bank had simply sent out a message to their staff showing their homework – why they needed to take action. Branch managers and all of the employees that interact with their customers daily could then coherently explain that mega-bank is not anti-Christmas, but anti-Tacky. No letters written except by the Pro-Tacky Movement.

I’m constantly amazed how many times corporate orders are passed down without a simple explanation of why. Yes, we will adhere to the policy given, but think about how much better we would be if we understood why. As a manager I might be able to better communicate our policy if I saw the homework that you used to get to your decision. There are too many managers that shrug their shoulders and have to tell their teams “because corporate said so. ”

Elephantal PhysicsThink about teachers grading a child’s math test. If the students were only allowed to give the answers, the score for each question can only be judged as right or wrong. If however the children are asked to write down the steps that they used to come up with the answer, the teacher can better understand where they went wrong and give partial credit or better yet take steps to help correct their understanding (unless of course there is an elephant in the way.)

Showing your homework leads to better understanding. If you are giving your team an order, give them the why as well. If you are getting orders from on high, make sure you pass down the why when you tell your team. Don’t drop the ball. They want the same understanding you have.

If you are not getting the why from your boss, tell them about Mom. She’s back in love with her bank because someone took the time to tell her why.