I went in to the office once to do a review with my supervisor (and friend) T. He said he was going to go through the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good was that there were some things that would radically improve some of my clients’ portfolios! All I had to do was follow up.
The bad was that there was an indication that I hadn’t followed up on a number of my clients due to distance (time and space) and that they needed to have a review on their accounts.
The ugly was that I had allowed my own accounts to go unmanaged! My own? Really? So I looked at the paperwork. It’s like a pebble in your shoe. After a while, the callous that covers your foot keeps the pebble from hurting, and you walk funny. Why would you leave the pebble in there LONG enough to get a CALLOUS!
I apologize to my friends and family for this lack of attentiveness! I followed the principle that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I had a perfectly working cart and horse and the whip looked to be in good shape. In following up, I discovered that many circumstances had changed. They had retired, they had gotten an inheritance, they had gotten sick, the spouse got sick. These things happen of course. But as a leader I had to be on top of things. T suggested I put a 90 day reminder on my computer so that I would systematically review portfolios.
What does this have to do with leadership? You can’t expect what you don’t inspect. Everyone knows that. In any class, boot camp or business, you get things moving and then you look at who’s excelling and who’s in the back of the pack. Where do you inspect? The back of the pack of course! You check for injuries, for psychological and inspirational problems, for work load, for training. John’s not doing well because he was up all night with a sick kid. Mary’s not doing well because she sprained her ankle on the last run. Julie isn’t doing well because of a shoulder injury and she’s been focusing on her pain and not on her people skills. Roger isn’t doing well because his football team lost and he’s depressed. Dan isn’t doing well because the stock market crashed and he watched his retirement go up in flames. Some of these things you can fix and some you can’t, but you know why they’re struggling. You don’t check the leaders because they will be ok. You focus on the ones at the back of the pack and you leave the ones in the middle to find their own way.
This is the mistake. Many times, the ones at the back have issues you personally cannot solve. You can’t fix a sprained ankle, you can’t solve depression. That takes professional help. But you worry about them all the same. The ones you CAN help are the ones in the middle of the pack. You can help Pat with his gait so he doesn’t sprain HIS ankle. You have Stan check with a financial adviser so he can avoid losing his whole retirement. You can recommend a good babysitting service to the young mother who’s not getting enough sleep so she gets a day away from the kids on occasion. When you Lead, you must Lead the whole group, and train the secondary leaders to do the same.
I have a friend who wrote a portion of the book and dealt with Leading from the Back. It’s the philosophy that you aim the people in the right direction, then kick them in the butt to get them started, and they will lead and discover talents and skills they didn’t know they had. But it’s not really the back. It’s more of the middle. The ones in the back can’t lead because they can’t share a vision if they can’t see anything but the backs of the guys in front of them. They can’t make a plan when they’re so involved in their own progress that the only plans they can conceive deal only with their own lives and not with the organization or the bigger picture. They can’t motivate anyone if they can’t motivate themselves.
The moral of the story is: Follow up on everyone. The leaders need to know you care, the ones in the middle need to get hands on help, and the ones in the back need to know you’re there.