Monday, April 1, 2013

Leadership In Daily Occurences

I had an interesting weekend. Almost nothing went as planned, however many things were accomplished. Overall not a bad weekend, it just means planning out future events more carefully.

However, over the weekend I was witness to two leadership efforts that truly caught my attention. We had a work crew arrive at our house on Friday to do some preventive maintenance on our trees. We've used this guy almost annually for the last couple of years because we have 3 trees in our 1/8 acre that are all over 25 years old and we would like to keep them. He's educated at the State University of New York, Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) Campus, which happens to be on the Syracuse University Campus (btw, GO ORANGE, FINAL FOUR BABY!). From the time my wife and I have known him, he's kept largely the same crew of workers

Now, in Houston this is an accomplishment. The crew tends to be Latin American heritage workers, however crews tend to be very "flexible" in their work arrangements and will jump teams almost at the drop of a hat (I almost said "drop of a sombrero," but thought it would be too much). The main climber remembered our house and went straight to work. His assistant mostly stayed on the ground and cleaned-up, sharpened tools, and played "gopher." Our ESF friend left the crew to do their work while he went to check on another job.

Around lunch he came back and delivered lunch to his crew. He then spent a few minutes making sure we (my wife and I) were happy with the work. That's the two part leadership lesson. He cared enough for his crew to get them lunch and water (out of his own pocket) and then he took time to make sure the customer was happy with the work being done. He even answered questions regarding some work I am considering doing myself, rather than hiring  him for it.

The crew followed his directions without complaint and I am sure next year his main climber will remember our house again. But why do they stay with him when there are hundreds of landscape and tree service companies in Houston.

Well, I am sure that the boss pays well, but that's only part. He related to his crew and took care of them. He gave instructions in Spanish. He drove them to the site in his truck. He provided the tools, fuel, food, and water for the day. This means he minimized the out of pocket cost for his crew and ensured that they had what was needed to get through the day.  I'm pretty sure that most of his crew wouldn't want to leave.

Believe it or not, this is part of COMMAND. It isn't about telling people what to do, it also means being responsible for your people. So the lesson here is to ask what can you do to relate to your team? Have you talked with them to ensure they have what they need for the day? Do you related to your team in their own "language" (tech, programming, engineering, fabrication, Spanish)? Do you make them feel valued through your own actions (buying lunch ocassionally, covering a training event)? These are, overall, small things that can make a team stay together longer, even if there is the prospect for more money. As many studies continue to show, money isn't everything.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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