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Passion, People and Principles

We’ll Follow the Old Man Wherever He Wants to Go

post # 234 — November 7, 2006 — a Managing post

In “White Christmas” (the movie with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye), the plot turns on the loyalty that the troops felt towards their leader, General Waverly, even long after the war had ended. “He ate only after we ate,” Bing’s character said, “He slept only after we slept.”

Back in July, I wrote a blog post about Jay Bertram, president of the Toronto office of TBWA, the global advertising agency, who asked all his people to evaluate him as a manager and announced to all his staff that if he did not improve in their ratings – by 20 percent within one year—he would resign!

I have now written a full article explaining the case for doing precisely that. It has been published by ChangeThis and is called “Accountability: Effective Managers Go First.”

It makes the case why effective managers must run a process that:

  • Clarifies their role
  • Gives them feedback
  • Demonstrates the crucial principle of commitment to continuous improvement and
  • Reduces the emotional distance between “us” and “them”

By the way, if you don’t know it, ChangeThis is a unique online magazine, inspired by Seth Godin and run by 800-CEO-READ, with an editorial board dedicated to what they call “thoughtful, rational, constructive arguments about important issues.” Their contributor list includes Tom Peters, Guy Kawaski, and Malcolm Gladwell. Earlier this year they also published my article “Strategy and the Fat Smoker.”

Back to our topic: I’ve asked this before on this blog, but I have no apology for asking again: Do any of you have examples of managers who led by force of personal example and willingness to go first? Managers who have been prepared to be personally accountable for their role?

1 Comment

Carl A. Singer said:


For the most part I’ve been blessed with good or great managers most of my career (both business and military) — and not necessarily because I made them so :)

My only complaint against a few of the “great ones” was they decided to retire and leave me to break in their successors.

To generalize, I think it’s the good / competitent / confident manager who solicits feedback from his team (perhaps not as dramatically as “I’ll resign”) — It’s the ones who don’t seek feedback who need it the most!

posted on November 7, 2006