Work right, Lead right

Society always passed tradition down through generations and they served us well. Generational change used to take a few decades to occur and so change was slow and there was time to reconsider change that did not make sense. Generational change now occurs much more quickly which means mistakes can happen and good traditions get lost.

Workplace rules are one casualty of lost tradition, leadership is another.

Rule 1. Be courteous at work; please and thank-you are free. Growing up on the dairy farm, my dad always said please when he asked us to do a task and thank-you after its completion. He and I both knew he could bring the world down around my ears had he wanted to but he was instead polite-and I did what was asked of me.

Rule 2. Take responsibility; everyone has got to have some skin in the game. Employees should have some self-governance and be allowed to make decisions on their own. They should have ownership of the decision and some of the daily workings of the business. Employees should be ready to take responsibility for these decisions and present a rational reason for these decisions. Employers should be prepared to support these decisions as long as the employee followed a reasonable, logical path to make the decision.

Now let’s talk about leadership. First off, here is my over-riding theme for leadership; if you believe the position is one of authority, you won’t be a good leader. If you believe the position is one of responsibility, you will probably do okay. Leadership and teaching are almost the same thing; constantly sharing your knowledge with others to the point they know what you know is the right way to do things. If you see your knowledge as only power and cling to it tightly then you will lose the respect of those who wish to respect you.

Good leaders collaborate. Collaboration is one of the most consistent ways to make good decisions. The county fair often has a contest to guess the weight of a steer. Researchers have found that if you get many guesses, the average of the guesses will be almost exactly right. You will have some really high and really low guesses however the average of all will be correct. It is that way at work, too. If you get everyone’s input, then look for the most common requests-you will find ideas that work for everyone. You will also find some really outstanding ideas; some of which will not even cost a lot of money.

Good leaders keep things working. I grew up on a dairy farm and there was rarely spare money. Maintenance on the tractors was sometimes not great and the gauges never worked. I really hate that; so much so that the first thing I fix on any tractor is the gauges. I mean you can never relax unless you have some way to gauge how things are going. I think that employees need properly-maintained tools to do their job. Well-maintained tools are also indication that business is going well and the employees can relax and do their job.

Here is the final thing about leadership-you have to like your people. If you are a leader, then those you lead won’t always like you but you must like them. Their careers will depend upon what you can teach them and you need some compassion to find the energy to teach the same concept more than once. If you are the sort of person who sits back and only corrects people when they make mistakes then you are not a leader-you are a back seat driver. Lead from the front, not from the back seat. Start a new tradition.

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