The management pyramid within a company is fairly similar from one organization to the next regardless of its size or industry type. At the top of the pyramid is the President, CEO, or owner and in various tiers below are the directors, department heads and front line employees in that order with each level reporting to the one above.
What happens however if the pyramid is flipped and the apex of the pyramid is now the front line employee and not the CEO? Many management experts are big proponents of this idea of inverting the pyramid as it forces company officials to pass on empowerment and support rather than commands. One advocate of this concept was Robert Greenleaf, who researched management, development and education for AT&T for 40 years. He wrote a famous essay in 1970 entitled, The Servant as Leader
"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature."
"The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?" http://www.greenleaf.org/whatissl/
As a motivational speaker who often speaks on the topic of customer service, I use the inverted pyramid concept quite often to demonstrate the need for employee empowerment. Also, as a business owner, I have been able to live this concept first hand and put it into practice with my own business. In my retail store, my employees are trained to understand that they work for the customers and not for me. They are trained to know that if neither the manager nor myself are available and they don't know what to do, their decision should be based on what will please the customer and win their repeated business. In fact, I've actually trained my entire staff to say goodbye and hang up on me if they are in the middle of serving a customer when I call in to the store. By doing this, I know that they are serving the customers and not me.
In the case of the inverted pyramid, this concept can only work with a good amount of training and "intelligent" service from leadership. Just empowering others is not enough. For this reason, smart hiring practices, continual monitoring and coaching of staff, and constant feedback are essential in achieving organizational success.
For more information or to book me as a motivational speaker, visit my website at www.scottgreenberg.com