Having grown up on a family farm, we always had a junk pile. What was on the junk pile could be a mix of spare parts, good iron, or just plain scraps of what once was. Some of it, eventually, was sold off, used, or just stayed there, year after year.
With our good junk, we:
- Reinforced something that was working yet needed added strength
- Repaired something that was broken
- Built something new
As leaders, we tend to do the same. We collect junk. We store old practices; we mix in some of the old with the new; and some of it just sits there unused. Not all is bad. Junk can be transformed into useful things in leadership, too, especially when it is added to something working or actively put into use again.
What is our leadership junk, and what do we do with it?
To explore this, a 2 x 2 may be helpful to evaluate what we should do with our leadership junk.
- Think: We need to think about our practices, including leading, facilitating, listening, interacting, analyzing, etc. Which of our practices are useful, and which are un-useful? Slot them in in one of the two categories.
- Think again: Given our practices, we need to think about the ones we use frequently or infrequently. We start to sort out our practices, moving some up into the “In Use” category and some into the “Not In Use” section.
- Prevent: Now, it is time to take note of everything on the left-hand side of the 2 x 2 and stop doing them. We need to make a mental note and catch ourselves when we start to use these useless practices again. This is the leadership junk we need to toss away and free up our time for the useful activities.
- Leverage: For our activities that are useful but not in use, we need to begin to fold them into our daily habits. Our objective is to mold and add them to other good things we do in our leadership actions. By adding these elements in, we may make our current useful work even stronger. We create leverage points to renew and reinforce good leadership and management practices.
- Repeat quarterly: Junk gets rusty if we leave it untouched for months and years on end. This is a good evaluation process to use each quarter so we clean out the useless leadership junk while incorporating the inactive good stuff into our daily leadership activities.
Transforming the good leadership junk into reinforced or new practices is where the real value exists. Equally valuable is discarding the leadership junk that just clogs our actions and gets in the way of improving.
Clear out your useless leadership junk. Engage your unused, useful practices, reinforcing and renewing your leadership skills.
What leadership junk do you need to discard? What can you transform into real leadership value?