The telephone and Internet were still not connected three days after moving our office. I had spent way too much time on hold and hearing excuses from Verizon. I needed to get free of their bureaucracy to focus on running my business. So I called in the Marines. Actually just one former Marine, a recently retired Colonel. For some jobs one Marine is plenty.
“Chet,” I said, “I know you are an executive here and you have plenty to do. So do I. We need telecomm restored ASAP. Do what you can. Okay?”
“Sure, boss.” Chet replied, “Whatever it takes.”
I was a little concerned by the martial fire in his eyes when he said, “Whatever it takes,” but I was determined to get the business back online and myself focused on other tasks.
“Right,” I said, “Get it done.”
When I walked into the office the next morning phones were ringing and people were using their computers. “Chet,” I exclaimed with a smile, “you did it!”
“You gave me an order, boss.”
“How did you do it?” I asked.
Chet looked at his shoes. His colleague Ray suggested, “Are you sure you want to ask that question?” Their demeanor brought a famous phrase immediately to mind, plausible deniability.
“What question?” I replied, “Did I ask a question? Nice work Chet.” I continued on to my office.
Though Chet’s achievement was wisely unexamined it could not go unappreciated. I bought a brass bull from an office supply store (part of a Wall Street bull and bear bookend set) and had the name plate engraved “The Unstoppa Bull.” [Photo above.] At the next all hands meeting I gave it to Chet and reminded everyone that his refusal to be deterred or delayed helped each of us to be more successful. I told Chet that part of the award was the privilege of choosing the next recipient. A few weeks later he recognized someone else and so it moved around the company.
Postscript: Long afterward my curiosity got the best of me. Over a beer, I asked Ray what Chet had done.
Chet made many telephone calls and spoke to many people’s bosses. A crew came out that evening but they hit a major snag. There was a junction box they needed to access in the office of the company downstairs but it was well into the night and no one from that organization or building management could be found. Even the cleaners were long gone.
So Chet resorted to breaking and entering. He may also have been vague or misleading to the Verizon crew about how he got in. To his credit, however, he did go back the next day to apologize and be absolved, thus demonstrating one of the the oldest rules of bureaucracy.
It is often easier to obtain forgiveness than permission.