Saturday, January 26, 2008

"You never came to see us"

I've been browsing an interesting book, Patrick Watson’s autobiography, This Hour has Seven Decades. Watson is a groundbreaking TV journalist (still best remembered for This Hour has Seven Days), who later became chair of the CBC.

But what I wanted to share with you is this particular gem, which relates to a key responsibility of management: walking around.

Here’s the scene: In the mid-1970s, a former president of the CBC, Alphonse Ouimet, was writing his memoirs. He asked to speak with Watson, then a freelance journalist, to sort out some of the issues around his controversial cancellation of Seven Days in 1966 - a move in which Watson was fired. Somewhat to Watson's surprise, the meeting went well. But after dinner and a bottle of Bordeaux, Watson realized he still harboured a grievance against Ouimet.

“I said ‘Al, you never came to see us, the producers. Or if you did it was always to tell us to pull our horns in, to not spend too much.’

‘You never came to the studios, you never came to pat us on the back and tell us what a great job we were doing. You were the father figure, you know, and we needed that from you.’”

Ouimet’s response? “He said he found that an astonishing thing for me to say. We must have known we were doing a good job and that management thought so, too, since we were given our budgets and our airtime, and we were all such confident and self-sufficient people; how could I say such nonsense about the father figure and needing to be patted on the back?”

Today, similar dramas play out every day in workplaces across Canada. Staff, even managers, desperate for attention and praise; and bosses unaware that that’s part of their job – perhaps the most important.

Does this happen in your workplace? If so, what will you do about it?

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