You first

I wish employees could, in more companies, talk back a little bit more to their management.

I wish middle managers could, in more organizations, talk back a little bit more to their executives.

I wish executives could, in more global organizations, talk back a little bit more to their boards.


Because if they could, perhaps they would start their reverse leadership campaign by demanding that the group on top (managers, executives or board) go first with the big change they are proposing for those below.

A huge problem in the modern organization is the lack of real-time feedback between organizational levels when a proposed change does not match with the real-time behaviors of the upper level leaders.

Secretive boards install transparency policies on executives.

Executives demand mentoring of employees from managers they refuse to mentor.

Managers insist on procedural compliance for everyone other than them.

I theorize that organizations would work better and change would happen faster if more people could say, “You first.”

The funny part about my theory is when you are driving change, you are in effect answering a “You first.” statement before it can even be said.

You can’t demand I go first if I already have.  Problem dissolved.

If I can’t get more organizations driving change, perhaps I could settle in the short-term for more organizations willingly allowing folks at all levels to say, “You first.”

What do you think?

Would that help your organization?

3 thoughts on “You first”

  1. You bet!

    I think that’s a perfect angle to take, April. And that’s why when I presented a new work flow management method to our senior manager and her direct report managers, they immediately starting thinking, “So how are we going to roll this out to the entire organization?” And I said, let’s just start with those in this room. Let’s try it with ourselves first and see if it really works for us, then we’ll have a better idea of what we want to design for the organization.

    And it’s working. They had a hard time implementing it the first week, and she wants me to come back every week and check on them to see how it’s going. One manager didn’t like it and I thanked him for his feedback. I told them that honest conversation about it is what we needed.

    As we continue experimenting with using the correct principles, I’m sure we’ll develop the right tool or method that everyone will be happy with. And hopefully they learn to use the same process with their people.

    You first.


  2. Great concept,

    Sadly I think you’ve also described the
    challenge your suggestion faces when you say “change would happen faster IF more people could say, “You first.”

    It depends on ‘IF’

    I’d ask ‘realistically’ how many business leaders do you think would be willing to engage? My own experience ( which admittedly is Eurocentric) is that in the main, commerce just ain’t like that. – the lower down the totem pole you are the less influence you have with the Chief, its best to just go along to get along.

    If you want to change things – best to do it obliquely?

  3. Ian – I agree that most bosses on either side of the Atlantic aren’t open to people being honest with them and saying “You first,” so the masses of people in organizations have to try subtle means to make change.

    But what if, just one of the authors that all the business leaders listened to would boil down his or her message to the boards, the executives and the managers to two simple words, “You first,” and started a reverse leadership revolution?

    I can picture posters for the back of people’s office doors that say, “Change you first.” with a space below to hang an 8×10 photo of the executive.

    Wouldn’t it be great if staff in these big organizations could buy a pack of those posters, then print out the company website head shots and hang the posters up in the middle of the night so one morning everyone arrived at work, shut their doors, and got the message all at once?

    It would be amazing if the person who hung the posters was the CEO, but pretty great if it wasn’t too.

    Okay, so maybe I’m just dreaming now, but for all the money that people spend on consultants and long term projects, I bet their return on investment would be much higher if they tried the simple poster method to jump start a driving change revolution.

    Archimedes said, “Give me a fulcrum and I shall move the world.” Maybe starting a change with ourselves is just the fulcrum we need.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top