I was thinking recently about that episode of the UK comedy Father Ted where Ted famously has to kick Bishop Brennan up the arse after losing a forfeit. It occurred to me that there were some lessons that business leaders and managers could learn from this story.
1. Always Be Fair And Consistent
The famous kick was the result of a forfeit levied by Ted’s great rival, Father Dick Byrne, after Ted cheated at a game of football. The loser had to carry out a forfeit of the other’s choice and Ted lost because he cheated and was discovered.
The wider lesson here is that any degree of cheating or dishonesty where your colleagues or team are concerned is potentially very damaging and very likely to backfire on you. With something as important as your team you should not take the risk of being found to be anything other than honest and up front. Trust among team members is vital for a team to function well. It can take a long time to build up mutual trust, but it can be lost in seconds if you do something to undermine it.
2. Listen To Everyone’s Ideas Before Making A Decision
When faced with the fact that he would have to kick the bishop, Ted was understandably distraught and clueless about how to proceed. The idea to just kick him and then act as if nothing had happened came from the famously dim witted Father McGuire. The theory being that Ted would never normally dream of doing such a thing, so the Bishop might not believe such an unlikely thing had happened. Ted initially dismissed the suggestion because it came from Dougal, then realised that it might just work.
No matter how good a leader or manager you are, you are not going to come up with all the answers yourself. Teams that function well are effective because they use the combined power and creativity of all members of the team. The leader of that team must ensure that all members are given the opportunity to contribute and consider all ideas and options before making any decisions.
3. Tackle Jobs You Do Not Like As Enthusiastically As The Ones You Enjoy
Father Ted is understandably terrified of what he is about to do and his initial reaction is to jump out of the window rather than go through with it. However, once he resolves to do it, he does not skimp on the job in hand or try to get away with doing it gently or half-heartedly. Knowing the possible outcomes, he still gives the bishop the hardest kick he possibly could.
Very few of us are lucky enough to have jobs where we love every single bit of what we have to do. There are usually a few aspects of our role that are distasteful and which we would rather not do it we had a choice. This can be because we lack experience or knowledge in some areas, or our personalities are not naturally suited to certain roles or perhaps it is just a subject of little interest for us. The lesson from Ted is to not put off the unpleasant jobs and get stuck into them with as much gusto as you give to everything else.
4. Do Not Give Up At The First Obstacle
Anyone who has seen the episode we are discussing will recall that Ted gets away with his plan as the bishop leaves in something of a daze, not registering what has taken place. Some time later, the penny drops, and he races back to have it out with Ted. Despite being terrified of the confrontation, Ted sees the possibility that all was not lost, and continues to persist with his version of events. The Bishop gradually accepts that Ted must be right and that he had indeed imagined it all. So he leaves again without taking his vengeance.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that it is a good idea to stick to your decisions in the face of clear evidence that they are flawed (or that you should go around kicking your boss up the arse). However, leaders need to be robust enough to resist calls to change course when they are confident that their decision is for the best. This can be particularly important when it comes to change management, as many people will naturally resist any form of change and leaders need to be strong enough to keep the organisation on course.
5. When It Comes To Communication The Small Details Matter
Father Ted would have got away with the whole thing if it wasn’t for a miscommunication between him and Father Dougal. Ted asked Dougal to blow up the photograph of him kicking the Bishop to a “ten by ten”. While obvious to Ted that this referred to ten inches, Dougal took it to be ten feet, which is why Bishop Brennan could not miss the evidence.
In my experience, if it is possible for something to be misunderstood, there is a good chance that it will be. When delegating or passing on instructions it is important to not only go into details, but to check that the person you are talking to has actually received the information. The best way to check this is to ask them to repeat back to you what you have agreed.