Thriftiness is an interesting concept. Most people think “cheap” or frugal. Think good stewardship instead. The Scots are a thrifty people…Get Value for your Money! You want the best quality for the most efficient price, yes, everyone knows that. But you want your assets to grow and bring in more assets. That is what thriftiness entails. Assets building assets. What does that mean? In terms of leadership, whatever project you are trying to accomplish, you want it to come in before time and under budget and still be better than anything the competition has to offer. Your biggest asset is your team. You want your team members to grow and get better, and you want them to bring in more contacts and resources to get a better product. What does that mean? One of the bigger applications of leadership in Toastmasters is the High Performance Leadership project, and 9/10 people will use setting up a conference for the district as their project. They have to assemble a team, find a venue, find a way to provide food and lodging for all those in attendance, run a contest with 2 different categories which means recruiting a toast master, a chief judge, judges, timers, sergeants at arms, and ballot counters. They have to have decoration committee, a registration committee, educational session leaders, 1st timers’ orientation leader, ribbons and trophies…it’s a massive job. But notice the 1st step–assemble a team. If you get a follower as a contest chair, the team will be weaker than if you get a leader. A leader will have contacts in many clubs, and the knowledge of how a contest should be run. This person would be able to find a good, trained judge to act as chief judge who is ALSO a leader with contacts and able to put together a team of good, trained judges, timers, ballot counters, and sergeants at arms. Many a time we have seen these leaders at the lower level contests making contacts and sharing information on who’s trained, who’s in a club with any of the contestants, who’s available. Followers do not take advantage of these situations. In other words, the Conference Chair doing the High Performance Leadership Project will necessarily have to be thrifty, because if not, that person will have to hand hold and manage all the chairs recruited to the project and it will NOT go well.
A thrifty family does not waste food or other resources; they make left overs; they can and freeze food that is in season; they keep the scraps from their craft projects to make new craft projects; they keep the seeds from their garden and compost the plants from this year to feed the garden for next year. A thrifty scout leader makes use of the outdoor time to get as many badge opportunities as possible for the scouts.
A thrifty business does not use over qualified or under qualified people to get its product or service done. Let’s say you have an important project to get done. If you hire a new person to run it, the new person has to learn YOUR business and then learn your PROJECT and has to assemble or work with a team that doesn’t know THEM. It doesn’t seem very efficient, and will be prone to failure. If you have an experienced member of your workforce, and you put him down in the entry level of your business because you need someone to do the work, you are paying wages of a tenured worker for work that can be done at half the price by a temp or an entry level worker. That will result in higher labor costs, and the experienced worker may feel under utilized and quit.
I have also seen this in the reverse where people think they are being thrifty and are being incredibly wasteful. Unfortunately, this can be witnessed mostly in education. It’s weird when the practice is so widespread that it has become cliche. What practice is this? Here’s the situation: you have a well respected teacher that is nearing tenure. His classes are growing, students are being attracted the the program, and he’s bringing national attention to your educational programs. But, the administration thinks, “He can only teach so many classes and do so many seminars, and if he is tenured, we will have to give him another pay raise and he will be harder to replace. If we don’t tenure him, he will quit and we can hire 2 newer, more educated teachers to take his place and grow the department and improve our reputation! We would lose 1 teacher with a masters degree and gain 2 teachers with doctorates and pay just slightly more for it.” They lose the credibility of the program because the students that come to specifically study with this teacher leave, the national attention the school was enjoying goes away, and the department actually gets smaller, especially if they have hired teachers straight out the doctoral program with no experience in the “real” world. They are basically starting from scratch again. The education level of the teachers is not a guarantee on their effectiveness as teachers either. There are many people with doctorates that are horrible teachers. Unfortunately, many people who pursue a doctorate have “teaching” as their back-up plan. The college really thought it was being thrifty. Here’s where the Value for the Money comes in. What did the college consider as the value? It was the number of classes taught and the number of students enrolled in the program. What did they consider to be the “money”? It was strictly the salary paid to the teacher. What was the actual value? 1) The ability of this teacher with a lowly masters degree to bring in students to the program who were leaders, 2) Connecting with leaders in programs across the country, and 3) Improving the program by example and expertise. What was the actual money? 1) Not just the salary of the teacher, but the tuition paid by the students he attracted, 2) The reputation of the school and the department, and 3) the recognition that improved the public relations without spending money. They only saw the money going out, not the money coming in and the intangible assets of reputation and recognition for the school that brought in more students. What did these students do when they got into the real world? Recommended this school to their students or coworkers and brought more students in, and not only that but brought a higher level of student to the college. So by refusing tenure, they lost the ability of the asset (the teacher or department) to bring in more assets (students and future teachers.)
What you need to consider as a leader when trying to be thrifty, then, is all the costs and all the benefits and all the values. You can’t just make shallow assumptions and assume that it will make all the difference. You have to go deeper than just credits and debits. What is the true cost of operations? What are the benefits to your company? What value do you offer to your clients that would make them return? Are you allowing your best people to do what they do best? Do you invest in your team–time, education, praise, support? What values are you providing for your team and your company? Are you conscientious with your people’s time and abilities? I know a guy that keeps a record of his time and activity and asks himself if he is doing the absolutely correct and most productive thing for his business every 15 min. You must be that mindful in the people that you lead and the project that you run. You must be Thrifty!