“Phantom Regiment” – From JeffreyTobin.com

Tobin Anyone who’s ever read this blog past the first few pages has heard me mention Jeff Tobin a few times.  Jeff is one of my oldest friends, mostly because he’s 16 hours older than me.  We were both drum majors in our all-scholarship military school band and went to the same college afterwards.  We also shared short but colorful careers in radio. 

This is from JeffreyTobin.com, Jeff’s professional site and blog.  Jeff brings up this radio “war story” whenever we see each other, which is far too infrequently.  ‘Preciate the write up, sir! 

And if you’ve not subscribed to Jeff’s blog, do it now.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

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bagpiper-150x150I’ve worked in broadcasting in some form or other since I was in my teens, and  I learned early on that one must always expect the unexpected.

It was the late 70′s at radio station WKST in New Castle, Pa. My best buddy from school and I had continued our close and wonderful relationship through college and into the broadcasting world at area radio stations.

We knew each other well. We were a team and trusted each other implicitly. We still do, these many miles and decades later.

Dan Wolfe was live and on the air on a sunny Saturday morning. From atop a downtown building, he described for his audience a community parade as it passed by. I was back at the studio in the control room running the show from behind the scenes as Dan listened to the broadcast through his headphones.

“Here comes the high school band!” He described the view as the audience listened to the music. “And there go the WWII veterans all marching in formation…”

He heard the music of the bagpiper regiment grow louder as it approached the grand stand. But he could see no bagpipers. He looked up and down the street, but there were no kilts, no drum major, no drums. Nothing. Still, the music swelled in his headphones. How could this be?

Suddenly I heard an almost imperceptible chuckle in his voice: The little giggle of which I’d become so fond over the years. Dan realized the music wasn’t coming from the parade at all, it was coming from the studio! I was playing a recording of bagpipers and carefully feeding it into the mix.

Dan didn’t miss a beat. He described in great detail the approaching  phantom regiment – the bagpipes, the colors, the regalia. And off they marched into the mind’s eye of our listeners. There never really were any bagpipers, and no one was ever the wiser.

My little joke was not a test of Dan’s abilities, but an investment in trust. I was confident that Dan would manage the situation. He was able, and he handled the unforeseen with the panache of the consummate professional he was.

And we grew closer together, both personally and professionally.

This week at my office, I demonstrated that same trust in one of our current employees, handing her a substantive project I knew she could handle.  Like Dan, she rose to the occasion, taking the project on as if it were her own. It was. And she didn’t miss a beat.

If you want to move your organization forward, first develop trust. When trust is established, you can hand off responsibilities that express that trust. In this way, a test of skill is no longer a test; it becomes an empowerment… an empowerment for personal and organizational growth.

“Handing off the bagpipers” to an employee is a gift. It’s a gift that makes everything stronger: The employee, your relationship, and the organization.


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