Emily and Jesse have a farm in the wilds of Bucks County, a bucolic bedroom commuter community for Philadelphia, New York and Washington, DC. Being from Queens, NY, Jesse had always imagined the tranquility of a gentleman farmer and so acquired a donkey named Barbie, six sheep and nine goats, not to mention four cats and two large dogs. They both had demanding jobs with little time for vacations. Travel was limited to long weekends on Cape Cod.
On my annual weekend visit to see Emily and Jesse I mentioned how the animals were one of the highlights of my visit. After ten years, they were more pets than livestock. I smiled as I thought of staying in the attic bedroom, windows open so I could hear the braying, baa-ing and maa-ing symphony in the morning, reminding Jesse it was breakfast time.
Emily said, “You know, when we were preparing for our recent trip to Europe we had to think about feeding the animals for a longer time than usual. The cats and dogs were fine. The hooved creatures, um, not so much. Feeding farm animals and extended time away from home are incompatible.”
Oh no, I thought. Where did they go?
Emily continued. “Our neighborhood has a retirement home for animals where they’re put up for adoption.”
“All except for two goats, Billy and his sister, Lexie. They saw the van drive up and they jumped the fence, hiding in the woods until the van with the rest of the animals left.
“Not only that, Billy holds a grudge. Jesse tried to lure them to a stall where they could be contained until the van returned. Nothin’ doing. Jesse rattled the food can, which usually works to convince them. They didn’t move.
“After about two hours of focused attention, Billy started inching his way toward the stall. Lexie followed him to the feed bowls, with Jesse standing as still as one of the rocks in the pasture. Before making the first step, as his foot began moving, the two goats shot out the stall door.”
Jesse tried again the next day with the same results. Emily and Jesse left for Europe the day after that, resigned to keeping two goats, at least for the time being.
When Jesse and Emily returned from their trip, Jesse placed some hay in the pasture. Billy and Lexie held back, leery of his intentions. He decided he had two goats for life.
Ten years of loving, caring and feeding – a trusting relationship – out the window.
Content expertise and integrity are the baselines of being a good leader. Integrity is the foundation for trust, crucial for being a leader.
Are you consistent with your words and actions or have you created a Billy?
Do you keep your promises to your employees, friends, and family? Or do you think, “Just this once it’s OK to . . .”
The more difficult story is how to repair broken trust. The steps are similar to those some doctors follow after making a mistake with their patients, a process that leads to fewer malpractice lawsuits.
1. Admit what you’ve done to break trust
3. Debrief to figure out what went wrong
4. Put steps in place to be sure it doesn’t happen again, and share those steps with the affected person(s).
Bring your Billys back into the fold.