The other day, one of my harshest critics at work accused me of being a “Kobe.”  I don’t give people a chance to do their jobs, I just fix stuff and move on.

Yep.  That’s why my boss sends me in.  I wasn’t stepping all over this person’s toes because they were doing a great job.  I was doing it to correct a situation that had gone horribly wrong and needed acts of heroism and bravery to rescue the accounts at jeopardy.  Allowing that person to do their job is what had happened prior to the disaster.  It was no longer the time for cooperative teamwork and offering people a chance to “fix it themselves.”  They had been given the chance for several months and failed.

My boss has stated many times that I am his “fix-it guy.”  When there is a shitstorm on the horizon, or more commonly, it has hit the fan, he sends me in to do damage control, cleanup, and process improvement. In b-school, we make sure we take the time to offer everyone a chance to participate, make optimum use of their skills, and gain all the advantages of “teamwork.”  Writing a paper or presentation is a democratic process.

In the world of business, there are real dollars at stake.  There are jobs to be lost, accounts threatening to take their business elsewhere.  It is a cutthroat environment that calls for different types of plays besides the “let’s play fair and give everyone a turn” course of action.

I stewed for a long time after hearing this comment “No one likes a Kobe.”  My first thought was – “Well no one likes a David Shula, either.” A bad leader is probably a bit worse than a star player.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that coaches definitely like to have a Kobe in their back pocket.  My boss knows I’m a Kobe, and he pulls me off the bench whenever the game is in jeopardy to allow me to bring the team to victory when we are behind.

In fact, the CEO, the COO and the CFO all speak very highly of me, even if I am not particularly well liked among the rank and file managers.

To the rank and file, I say – if you see me coming, you better believe it means you or your department has screwed up.  I’m not here because you are an awesome manager doing a fantastic job despite miserable odds.  I’m there in your department because processes for which you are responsible have broken down and need to be re-engineered to accommodate whatever natural business evolution took place.  You either didn’t have the imagination and creativity needed to find a way to handle the new business processes, or you were just so set in your ways that you figured you could ignore the change and get away with it.

Nope, I don’t think you should like a Kobe if you are a middle manager.  But if you are a CEO, you should see how important the Kobe’s in your organization are, and make sure you keep deploying them as needed to repair the problems caused by the 2nd rate players.

These are your “internal consultants” and they cost quite a bit less than hiring a consulting firm.  When you identify them, make sure you know how to use them.  They’re a veritable Swiss Army knife of problem solving and process repair.  They will take your organization several light years forward with a few quick strokes.

Someone who appreciated me overheard the Kobe comment, and waited until the critic left the room to give me a compliment to offset the insult.  They said “you’re the Wolf.”  They were referring to Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction, Winston Wolfe, who is sent in to clean up when a hit goes awry.  That seemed a little more appropriate.  I don’t like basketball anyway – but that should be obvious, since I used an NFL metaphor to counter a basketball insult.  To me, it’s all just “sports.”

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