The Chronicles of Andy and Pat: Episode 1
By Dave D’Arcy, Founder of Laughing Leadership
Back in the mid-1990s, Andy was a fledgling manager just starting out in his leadership career. He had been a relatively successful field sales rep within the company but wanted something else. He was offered the role of Customer Service Manager for a large London branch of the business. This was where Andy first encountered Pat, the site General Manager.
Pat was a larger-than-life Irish man, the first generation to be born outside of Ireland. Very well educated with a home counties accent that quickly moved west across the UK into Eire, only stopping at Cork or Kerry as the Guinness was consumed. Pat took an immediate liking to young Andy and took him under his not insignificant wing. These are the tales of the journey and the laughs they shared to that great destination of LEADERSHIP.
This was the 90s, when senior managers still had their own office, with the stated “open door” policy, assuming you had the nerve to knock on and open that allegedly open door. Andy quickly felt confident enough to knock. Pat had made him feel welcomed into the wider team and gave him the sense that he was a part of Pat’s group.
One day early in the relationship, Andy encountered a customer issue. This wasn’t business critical, but Andy felt this was an opportunity to fix a problem, perhaps get some stars on the metaphorical fridge chart. Still new to this career and maybe not as confident as he would like, Andy ventured to Pat’s office.
Knock – Knock
“Hi Pat, Can I ask some advice?”
“Certainly, young fella.”
Andy explained the issue to Pat and asked: “What should I do?”
Pat thought for a moment and replied: “What do you think you should do?”
Andy mulled this over for a moment and ventured a potential next action.
“Away you go then, do that,” advised the big man.
Duly Andy trotted off happy that he had permission from a man that he both liked and wanted to impress. Andy carried out the task. Unfortunately, this failed to resolve the matter. Disappointed but not beaten, Andy went back to see the boss and explain the new situation. He again enquired what he should do. To his surprise, Pat repeated the earlier question.
“What do you think you could do?”
Again, Andy thought this through and made a further suggestion. He was unsurprisingly sent on his way to follow his own advice. Once again, the proposal wasn’t the anticipated solution and once again Andy returned towards Pat’s office. Enroute, however, it struck Andy that, in all likelihood, Pat was going to repeat his advice. With that he decided that he should follow his instinct and do what he thought.
Eventually the problem was resolved, and life went on.
Andy learned a few valuable lessons this day that would serve his future leadership career well. He learned the importance of making a newcomer feel a part of the team and demonstrating belief in that newcomer. He learned that Being a leader means making decisions but more importantly trusting those that you lead to make decisions. He also learned that it’s ok to fall but pick yourself up and try again and that a true leader will encourage you up and help you to be confident to give it another go.
And finally, he learned that sometimes it’s better to seek forgiveness than permission.