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Would the boy be proud of the man you are?
To Kent Murdock's employees, the idea sounded like career suicide.
Murdock had approached them with what he thought was a great idea for a presentation to the management team of his 2,000-employee firm, O. C. Tanner. But when they heard what it was, his executives were stunned into silence.
"You want me to do what?" asked one fellow, finally. "Dress in mouse ears?"
The idea was simple: four members of the leadership team would act out the popular management book Who Moved My Cheese to introduce a discussion on change management. O.C. Tanner, an employee recognition company, was going through more than its share of change-a painful computer system overhaul, an evolution to lean manufacturing, and even a transition from pure production to more of a consulting-based services company.
And amid all this stress, heartache and tension, Murdock wanted four executives to dress up like theme park characters-two like mice and two as strange little humanoids who had to adjust to their cheese being moved!
To their credit, Murdock's people didn't immediately reject his idea. Sure, they chuckled a little and shook their heads, but after getting over the initial shock, one by one, they agreed to participate.
Why? Because they trusted their leader.
By the time of the presentation, they were confident of Murdock's plan. In fact, it wasn't Murdock's plan anymore. Each employee had embraced it. It had become their plan.
And you know what? It worked!
"The Cheese presentation was a great success," says Murdock. "People still talk about it. It was lighthearted and fun-anda good lead-in to very serious topics for our company.
"Back then, I thought the real success was the presentation itself. Now I realize the true miracle was my employees' trust in me. I now feel greatly honored that they were willing to follow me into the white-collar equivalent of a minefield. And I'm relieved that we all came out of it with our dignity and professionalism intact."
Let's face it, most leaders don't enjoy that kind of relationship with their employees. But Murdock, a winner of the American Business Ethics Award, does. We know because we witnessed the meeting firsthand.
It wasn't long after that skit that we started work on The Integrity Advantage, our first book on the subjects of trust, integrity and leadership.
Trust, we realized after much study and experience, is the basis for all successful relationships-in business and in life. And integrity is what inspires trust. It just makes sense, then, that a person who wants to be trusted, followed and admired must first pursue integrity.