Pass Off The Broom
I am sure we have all heard the leadership adage, never walk past a piece of trash on the grounds of your workplace because it sets a precedent for those working for you to follow. Your subordinates might come to the conclusion that if the boss is not concerned with the minute details of picking up trash then they should not be bothered by the refuse either. In an expansion to that lead by example philosophy, I would like to recommend another leadership tactic to add to your developmental repertoire and it involves a common household cleaning utensil.
Hang with me this will get better, I promise. Let’s say you are the company commander for an Army helicopter unit, a manager for a small organization, or the CEO for a large corporation, and you notice that the floor in the common area, break room, or conference room has continued to remain dirty for several days now. As your frustration builds, because cleaning the company’s floors is not in your job description, you decide to grab a broom and make it happen. Kudos on you for taking the initiative and not allowing janitorial duties to remain beneath you, my wife would argue that sweeping and mopping our home floors is my greatest strength (kidding), but I would not like to end this story with this pick up the broom and make it happen leadership principle. Yes, it is important, as those at the top of any organization, not to ask anyone to do something we are not willing to do ourselves. However, getting back to our scenario with the dirty floor, we as leaders must be mentally prepared to pass off the broom. I know what you are thinking, “what the heck is McRay writing about.” I get that a lot, so bear with me.
Do you think that when a company commander, manager, or CEO picks up a broom and starts sweeping a dirty floor that their co-workers notice their leader is performing manual labor? Yes, it is highly likely they will. And if you have earned the respect of those who report to you, it will not be long before one of those subordinates comes up and asks to take over the task of sweeping. A couple of key points here. One, this simple act of taking over the broom from you is a great sign that your people realize how valuable your time is in leading them well, which is exactly what they need from you the most. If sweeping the floor was important enough for the boss to bust out the broom and do it, then it clearly needs to get done and the boss’ must remain focused on taking care of the team. Two, there may be a deep desire to finish the task of sweeping that you have started, but do not give in to your pride in this situation and go ahead and pass off the broom. Thank them for taking over and get back to taking care of your people.
While this is a specific example of leadership through cleanliness, this pass-off the broom principle can be applied to any task within the work environment. When those who report to you are willing to step up and take over, and the task is within their capability to do it well, let them. Provide them the essential training they need to succeed and watch them thrive. Developing our subordinates is an often forgotten leadership skill that we must keep at the forefront of our minds in order to develop the health, and improve upon the morale, of our organization.
As a review, unappealing tasks, like sweeping the floor, often come up in the workplace that requires us as leaders to get our hands dirty because we want to effectively lead by example. If we have effectively led our organization, then it is highly likely that one of our subordinates will ask to take over the task. Don’t let your pride, or frustration that you are having to complete the unappealing task, keep you from passing off the broom. It is truly a blessing and a great sign of your impact on your organization that those who report to you are willing to take over. Final point, do not forget to follow up and find out what happened to the janitorial service that was responsible for sweeping the floor!