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Leadership and Socks

August 26, 2015

Leadership SocksBad Habit:

I have a (bad) habit of sometimes putting my feet up on the chair across from me at the home breakfast table. It’s usually after I have finished breakfast, have moved my plate out of the way, pulled my Kindle reader close and topped off my coffee. The hope is to be relaxed but focused on the book and topic with which I’m currently engaged.

Here’s the problem. This table came in a box and I had to assemble it. The legs were held to the underside of the round top by cloth straps that were stapled to the wood. To assemble, I pulled the straps off the legs and bolted the legs in place. I didn’t notice the fine detail that in several cases, the staples didn’t pull out completely but rather broke leaving a sharp metal staple “leg” slightly exposed. Not a problem unless you are putting your sock clad feet up on a chair and so under the table. Of course, things are oriented such that those damn staples snag my socks and irritate my toes when I do not want to be distracted by such things. And the staples have actually created holes in otherwise good socks.

Can’t Let It Go:

Of course I had to climb under the table with pliers and pull the staples out where I could. A couple staples were too stubborn to pull out and I had to pound them in below the wood surface instead. Note: I put this table together 10 years ago. It’s been annoying me all this time. I should have done things right the first time. I should have paid attention. I should have taken care of the annoyance as soon as I discovered the oversight. I didn’t. Something else always seemed more urgent.

Business Process Holes:

Similarly, I think we have lots of minor irritations in our business processes. They continuously eat away at our productivity but seem too minor to stop what we’re doing to address them. We tell ourselves that we have to stay focused on the task, the objective. So we wind up living with inefficiencies that we could easily eliminate for ourselves and/or our team. What’s with that? How long should we put up with the “this is annoying but I can’t fix it now; I’ll do it later,” syndrome?

Are you needlessly putting holes in your business process socks? As a leader, are you allowing your team to address the small irritants that destroy effectiveness and efficiency? Do you give your team permission to address productivity killers or does your compensation plan focus on short term results rather than long term efficiency? Sometimes leadership does mean paying attention to details and encouraging long term thinking.

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