Pack Leadership: Presence II

Posted on August 24, 2009

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Kai, flat-coat/chow mix, and Rustle, miniature poodle

Kai, flat-coat/chow mix, and Rustle, miniature poodle

A few weeks ago, I talked about the importance of being present as an aspect of leadership. I’m going to talk about it again, because it’s so important and so undervalued.

The comparison with leading your dogs is simple: If you leave your dogs alone (fail to be present) for too long, they’ll make a mess – and I’m not talking about chewing on the furniture. When you finally get back to them, you’ve got to clean up the mess or live with the stink. Please, for my sake if not your own, clean it up.

Hopefully the humans you lead can find the restrooms when you’re not around, but they still make messes. They misunderstand an instruction. They forget a step in the process. A change comes down the pike and they decide on their own how to handle it. They run out of supplies and don’t have the authority to requisition more. I’ve served in the Army and worked in the civilian world for over fifteen years since then. As a result, if I sat here all day, I could keep coming up with examples.

I don’t expect my leaders to sit next to me and hold my hand while I do the same for my subordinates. You can’t be present 100% of the time – and you shouldn’t be. What I’m trying to do is get your imagination working on worst case scenarios so you’ll try to be present more often.

You shouldn’t be present all the time because those “messes” are really training opportunities. You should be present as much as possible so you can take advantage of those opportunities. When you come back and clean up the mess, or get your team to clean it up, you should take the opportunity to train the team what to do next time. You should be notice when the unexpected gets handled properly in your absence – because whoever took charge deserves a reward, and consideration for promotion.

I can’t leave this topic without asking that you notice what I didn’t say: Until just now, I haven’t mentioned punishment. You’re first reaction to the mess may be to yell and fly off the handle. Take a few deep breaths and let the anger go. Focus on the training opportunities and what needs to be done to fix the situation. If someone purposely screwed things up, that’s worth punishing. If your team just made a mistake, like dogs messing up your rug, let your anger go and focus on what the team (or your rug) needs now.

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Posted in: Leadership