Keep the water out of the boat.

Keep the Water Out of the Boat

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

Here’s the thing about sailing a boat: You want to keep the boat in the water and the water out of the boat. It’s healthier that way. And as a boat owner, I was always “amazed” at how we had to pay attention to all the little maintenance things on the boat to keep it in the water and the water out.

I was reminded of that saying when I woke up one morning this month to notice that the wood on a cabinet in our kitchen was uncharacteristically dark. In fact, wet. Uh, it’s not supposed to be wet.

Turns out it was a very small leak coming from the shut-off valve to our refrigerator’s ice-maker. Now this wasn’t what I expected. I was pretty sure, as I struggled to pull out the refrigerator, that I would find the hose itself broken. But no, it was a very slow leak at the valve itself where it screwed into the plastic fitting on the plastic supply pipe in our relatively new home. Not a pretty sight.

Slow LeakNow this slow leak was really slow as far as I can tell. Maybe a couple of drips a minute or so. But over time, the moisture built up to the point where the sub-flooring was totally ruined, the cabinet floors on both sides of the refrigerator were ruined and we are now in a very big mess. And you know the story — one thing leads to another and so there is now major construction underway at our home.

The same thing is true in our businesses. The small things are what give us the big challenges in the end. That’s why we want everyone in the organization to be thinking and working on their own. We want them to take care of the little things that need adjusting without having to wait for instructions or for the little things to rise to the top of the priority list. We want to develop leaders, not followers. Followers wait for instructions on the small stuff. We want them to just take care of them so they don’t get out of control.

Are  you building leadership at every level of your organization? Are you encouraging your employees to think and take action on their own or are you the bottleneck making all the decisions big and small?