The Consciousness for Better Leadership by Brad Szollose
Are You a Beekeeper or a Watchmaker?
During the summer of 1981, with the smell of chocolate in the air, I became the assistant manager in the games division of Hersheypark in Pennsylvania. My specialty within the chocolate themed amusement park was running the water balloon race. You know the game—squirt water into a plastic clown’s mouth to blow up a balloon. The first one to pop their balloon won a bright yellow plush stuffed banana. I wanted to trade all that in for a management position.
Looking back on it now is quite amusing. I was an 18-year-old kid attempting to manage other 18-year olds. Picture Doogie Houser trying to act managerial and you get the picture.
Fast-forward 18 years later. I would find myself leading the Dot Com boom as the cofounder of the very first Internet Agency to go public with an IPO on NASDAQ—K2 Design, Inc.
Now please understand, I am not telling you this to brag, I am telling you this to impress upon you how much I HAD to change over those 2 decades. I was raised in a very small town and taught to just get a job, work long hours and hopefully work your way up the ladder. But during those Silicon Alley days on Wall St., in order to meet the demands of a new tech-savvy workforce, I had to adapt. If I resisted, my best and brightest would quit, taking their ideas to our competition.
Fast-forward another 18 years. Today’s younger workforce is not motivated by money, power or the corner office, but instead, motivated by rich experiences and incredibly dynamic work environments that continuously challenge their abilities. And I just want to clarify, when I say younger workforce I mean 37 years of age and younger— a.k.a. Generation Y, Millennials, Gamers and/or Digital Natives. But that doesn’t mean I am excluding my fellow Baby Boomers. This benefits all of us as I am about to point out. So first, let’s ask ourselves a question:
Are you a Beekeeper or a Watchmaker?
A watchmaker works in an environment of precision.
In order to create a beautiful timepiece every single day, each phase of the watchmakers operation must be micromanaged. One micron off could lead to disastrous results. Innovation only comes from the top of such a company. Ideas and thoughts from the assembly line get in the way of output.
Head down. Do your job. Meet your quota. Listen and obey. Sound familiar?
The beekeeper operates in a world of constant chaos and shifting conditions.
His or her job consists of overseeing 150,000 bees, living and working out of over 4-dozen, 3-foot-high “wooden hives.” Instead of micromanaging like our previously mentioned watchmaker, the beekeeper must foster a nurturing environment that supports the production of honey. Micromanaging would get in the way of the hive. So a beekeepers job is to give the bees the best environment possible for seamless production. In other words, get out of the way and let them manage themselves.
To the untrained eye, the hive can look like nothing but chaos. What is really going on is each bee acts as an independent agent whose soul mission is in alignment with the hives overall mission: produce honey. The beekeeper CANNOT guarantee an exact outcome, but he trusts that each will do what they do best.
This management model when applied to the real world, relies on a simple premise: People are free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done.
In today’s parlance this “beekeeper” style of management is called a Results Only Work Environment or ROWE for short.
You cannot create incredible products in an environment that micromanages creativity and punishes innovation. Your job as a leader in the 21st Century is not to be a commander shouting orders from on high but be the beekeeper who strives to bring out the very best in people.
Thanks for reading,
“The Beekeeper and The Watchmaker” story can be found in Navigating The Growth Curve by James Fischer. Want to learn how to manage like a beekeeper? Check out James Fischer’s Growth Curve Institute.
Brad Szollose Bio
Brad Szollose is the *award-winning author of Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia, which explores the subject of new leadership styles – mainly how to get the tech-savvy Generation Y and analogue driven Baby Boomers working together.
During the Dot Com Era of the mid 90’s, Brad co-founded the very first Dot Com agency to go public on NASDAQ – K2 Design. Catapulted from entrepreneur to C-Suite Executive required Brad and his business partners to quickly develop a new management model to satisfy the very first wave technology driven workers. This management model won K2 the Arthur Andersen NY Enterprise Award for Best Practices in Fostering Innovation Among Employees.
Today, more than just an author, Brad is a keynote speaker who helps businesses close the Digital Divide by understanding it as a Cultural Divide – created by the new tech-savvy worker…and customer.
* Liquid Leadership is the 2011 Axiom Business Book Award winner of the silver medal in leadership.
Photo courtesy of David Drexler