Leading from the Bottom

inverted org chart

All of us seek to move up in our career.  We look at the organizational structure of our employer or maybe the desire to own your own business and we set goals to move up.  But is it really moving up? 

As you move throughout the ranks of a supervisor, manager, director or any other position of authority and leadership within an organization you are taking on more responsibility.  The higher you go the more responsibility and pressure you have.  Your success becomes more and more dependent on the success of the organization. 

And so when you start, you are at the bottom of the organizational food chain.  You see the possibility of more money and less work.  In a typical org chart, it seems like the higher you go, the fewer burdens you have to bear.  A typical org chart has the incoming employees at the bottom bearing the load of the organization.

Here’s the thing.  Where do customers belong on that chart?  Do they even exist?  Are they even less important than the entry-level employees?  Do they not matter as much as the highest tier of leadership?  They are directly connected to all of the individuals that see them each and every day. 

In our case interpreters have a tremendous amount of contact with patients.  They work with patients throughout every level of a health care organization.  Scheduling, appointments, triage, billing, inpatient, and diagnostics testing, counseling, physical therapy…The list goes on and on.  Interpreters and schedulers serve the needs of both internal and external customers day in and day out.

So here’s the mind shift. 

Customers are the most important part of any organization. They provide the money to make everything else work.  They are always at the top.  Any organization has slogans and catchphrases that show how much they care about the customer.  This is business 101.

Now lets go back to the org chart.  If you have the president or CEO of an organization at the top and the customers above them, you have a very different perspective.  It looks as though the president has the most direct contact with the patients or customers.  It also looks like the president commands their will throughout the organization and that will trickles down to the bottom. 

If you’re at the bottom you may feel like the management team is succeeding off your hard work.  Maybe you feel like no one cares about the work you do and you just have to follow orders.

What if we turned that org chart on its head?  If the interpreters were on top next to the customer, you would see how much their direct contact affects the organization’s success.  Now underneath them were the supervisors and below them the managers, below the managers were the directors and below that, organizational leaders until finally you see the president. 

It is very obvious to see that the lower you get, the more weight you have on your shoulders.  The people at the lowest level of this org chart has the entire staff and their families dependent on their every decision.  That’s a lot of burden to bear.  But if you look at this chart you can easily see that.

Things look good at the top.

Interpreters, it feels good to be at the top.  You can see how the entire organization is lifting you up so you can leave a memorable impact on the customer experience.  Your sole focus is on doing what you do best: interpreting.

Bringing it back to where we started, everyone looks to move up in an organization.  Well this new perspective makes you want to move down.  But this isn’t a bad thing.  You have a desire to lead and support people in their efforts to provide great customer service.  The lower you go the more you have on your shoulders and the more people you can help. 

You can see by looking at this new organizational chart that as you move further down the chart your burden of responsibility grows.  You have to work even harder to lift more and more people up in order for the organization and the employees above you to succeed.  You can see why wages increase and education and experience become an even greater factor.

My challenge to you:

Now I know that this isn’t the way most organizations see themselves.  Most have a top-down mentality.  But as a manager of interpreters, as their leader, you can adopt a bottom-up mentality within your department.  You can tell a good leader by the output their followers produce.  This is what a good leader does.  They lift people up and inspire them to greatness. 

Take some time to build a bottom-up org chart for your department.  Make sure to include everyone’s name.  Show them how you’re going to lead from the bottom up.  It can be on a piece of paper where you draw it out in pen.  Maybe you make it fancy and brand it, color coat it, and print it with gold ink. 

It doesn’t matter how you do it.  What’s important is to share it with your team.  Show them that you are there to lift them up.  They will see the work that’s on your shoulders and, if you’re good to them, they’ll reach down to offer a helping hand that will pull you up.  Because when you lead your team well, Together Everyone Achieves More!

Let me know how this goes.  I’d love to hear your comments and experiences with this new approach to leadership.

Happy Holidays to you all and thank you for letting Connecting Cultures be a tiny part of your team!


Posted on November 29, 2016 and filed under Manager.