Operations: Your Leadership Tackle Box
One thing most people that observe me on a professional level do not know about me is that I consider myself an avid outdoorsman. When I am not working in or on the business, I will most likely be found in the woods or on the water. Getting in and around nature is my time to “debrief” and attain the Spiritual Dimension of “sharpening the saw” (Stephen Covey’s Seventh Habit of Highly Effective People). Just like in the business, I must also go into the outdoors prepared for anything — never leaving home without the right tackle in my box.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with fishing and what anglers keep in their tackle box, I’ll give you a quick briefing. My tackle box is going to be filled with different lures than most other fisherman (typically dependent on where we are fishing). But lures are not the only thing that we hold in our boxes. There are certain essential tools that just about all fishermen will have in their tackle box and be able to pull out when the right time comes. Some examples of these miscellaneous essentials include sunscreen (preventative), needle-nose pliers, measuring tape, hanging weight scale, a sharp knife, and so on.
As a leader of your organization, department, or team, you also must always have your “tackle box” handy. Now obviously, your leadership tackle box will be drastically different then a fishermen’s tackle box, but you should always have the essentials tools necessary to move the company forward and solve problems.
There are four essential tools that we, as leaders, must have in our tackle box on any given day to move our organization in the direction that is desired. These tools can be utilized at any level in an organization.
The first and arguably the most important tool to have in your leadership tackle box is “empathic listening.” Whether it is communicating with a customer or an employee, without the ability to empathize with their perspectives, you will never be able to get to the root of the problem that needs solved. All one ever sees is the tip of the iceberg, until you take the time and effort to see what is below the water’s depths. Great leaders are able to understand first, and only then can they effectively find the solution.
Although many people feel like they always have this next tool, most leaders do not consistently use it. The second tool is “operative time management.” If this tool is not constantly sharpened (like the knife in your fishing tackle box), it is very easy to get off track. Time management is almost like a puzzle. You can put your schedule together in many different ways to ultimately yield the same outcome, but the efficiency at which the outcome was achieved is the major differentiator. With time being one of the few finite resources in the world, it’s about how one can manipulate it to get the most out of every second of every day.
In order to get more done in the finite amount of time that we have, it is important that we prioritize our goals and to-do lists and pull out the tool of “stewardship delegation.” My short definition of stewardship delegation is an entrusted duty and responsibility. If done properly, large projects, responsibilities and goals can be accomplished, all while developing the skills of your team. This tool is one of the most underutilized tools that get some of the greatest results.
The last (but definitely not least) tool that every leader must have in their tackle box is “reward and praise” for exceptional performance. This tool should not be pulled out or used lightly. No, I am not saying you should be stingy with your praises, but you want to keep them meaningful when given out by only giving them when the performance is truly exceptional. If the expectations of the employee’s job are clear, then they know when they have exerted more effort than is needed to just “get by.” Only during those incidents should you reward with more than their typical reward of pay or bonus that they already receive.
The final thing to keep in mind when using the reward and praise tool is to make it public. Make everyone else in the organization aware of the great work the employee did and don’t hesitate to even share what their reward was. The more creative and specialized you make the reward, the more it will be appreciated. You will notice that this selection process will result in greater outcomes from more people.
So next time you are heading into work, don’t forget to make sure you have all of your tools in your tackle box to catch the biggest fish.