As a young Boy Scout, I had the opportunity to lead a group of my peers as a Patrol Leader in the Flaming Arrow Patrol. We developed into a strong patrol, and became good friends. But when I was elected Senior Patrol Leader, it became apparent that I hadn’t ensured for proper leadership succession. In fact, at age 14, I wasn’t even aware of the principle.
On the first campout with the new Patrol Leader, everything was going well until they realized they had forgotten a spatula to turn their pancakes. Since they had already mixed the pancake batter, and were hungry, they came up with a novel idea: scrambled pancakes. The pancakes were stirred with a fork, just like scrambled eggs. The result did not look appetizing, but the guys were hungry, and ate it anyway. Ask any member of Troop 592 from that era about scrambled pancakes, and you’ll have a good laugh.
And the Flaming Arrows never forgot to have the proper cooking utensils again.
The important lesson from the experience is that in order to perform a task effectively, the right tools are necessary. If an individual doesn’t have the right tools, their assignment is destined for failure.
Although different tasks require different tools, there are some common tools that must me be available in order to succeed.
- Empowerment When given an assignment, whether it be installing a new faucet or leading a team, an individual must be given the authority to perform the task and to make the necessary decisions that will be faced along the way. Without this empowering, the task cannot be completed.
- Expectations If you cannot clarify expectations, don’t make the assignment. If I am installing a faucet, the basic expectations are: properly mounted, tight connections, hot water on the left and cold on the right. But what if the client has additional expectations that weren’t conveyed to me?
In leading a team, some basic expectations will be obvious as well. But what is the ultimate goal? Do I follow a marked path or must I discover my own? If these and other questions are not clarified, the leader may not meet the unspoken expectations.
- Education A certain degree of training and orientation is necessary for any job. In any field, it may be assumed that the individual has a basic knowledge of the task at hand. But unlike the journeyman plumber who has installed thousands of faucets, and has access to a basin wrench and other devices to facilitate the job, the new leader may not even have a toolbox, much less the necessary tools to complete the job.
Education ties in closely with empowerment and expectations. When a new leader is asked to lead a team, the supervising leader should determine the extent of the new leader’s knowledge and make certain to fill in the gaps.
- Evaluation How do we measure success? What tools do we use for this? How frequently will the measurements be taken, and how frequently will constructive feedback be given? Just as educators use rubrics to help define success for their students, the elements of success should be well-defined for the new leader.
When a faucet is installed, the apprentice plumber will require more evaluations than the experienced journeyman will. The expectations at each step should be understood.
When leading a team, sometimes the specifics are harder to define. But the new leader cannot succeed without understanding what will be evaluated.
If a new leader is not equipped with the right tools, he may be doomed to failure. Whether it be a pancake turner, a basin wrench, or a thorough understanding of the assignment, the right tools are critical for completing the job.
Are you giving your crew the right tools? A good leader will ensure that a well-stocked toolbox is available.