Saturday, February 26, 2011

Power to the People in the Trenches

Never underestimate the wisdom and resources of your frontline staff.
- Lee Cockerell

A number of years ago, columnists Ann Landers wrote a piece called “Let George Do It”. The story is about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.

Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it. Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.

Actually, the greatest Somebody of all is telling not just Anybody, but You, that there is a most important job to be done. Nobody but You is being asked to do that job.

While there are many hard workers within your organization, that humorous story is an important reminder of the significant role your frontline staff plays in the daily execution of your business. As a leader, it is important to not just appreciate the service they deliver but see them as extensions of your leadership.

Staff on the frontlines have the initial point of contact with your clientele, are the face of the organization, and create the first impressions that will make or break your business. As important as this role is, it is equally important to understand why your frontline staff is so important to you. Here are three simple yet powerful observations to help you appreciate their invaluable service.

They are valuable because of what they see. There is something to be said about the view from the top. As a leader, you see the big picture and oversee the execution of the vision.

While you have your eyes on the big picture, those in the trenches have their eyes on the road taking you there. They see the obstacles, barriers, and pitfalls, and as such, provide intelligence necessary to navigate the organization with skill.

John Maxwell said, “Leaders who are good navigators are capable of taking their people just about anywhere.” Good leaders rely on people with good insights and instincts. Those in the trenches provide the extra set of eyes you need to be an effective leader.

They are valuable because of what they hear. With their ears to the ground, team members in the trenches hear what you would not ordinarily hear. How well do you know what is being communicated on the frontlines of your organization? Do you understand the needs and concerns of your customers?

Team members in the trenches have their pulse on the business. As a leader, when you have a finger on the pulse of the organization, it makes you a more effective leader.

On the frontlines of your organization is where the most important conversations regarding your business take place. Staff in the trenches will hear the unvarnished truth that you may be shielded from. With this knowledge they can help you and keep you on the right course.

They are valuable because of what they deliver. Without exceptional, skilled, and trusted people in the trenches, think of where your organization would be. The relationship to those in the trenches should be characterized by trust and inclusion.

The wise leader knows that those in the trenches are the engineers of momentum that drives the organization towards success. People in the trenches clear paths so that everyone can move forward. In addition, they understand its culture and can head off potential threats. In short, people in the trenches are the go-to players who deliver time and again.

With this level of leadership, talent, and ability; is it any wonder those in the trenches are so invaluable to your organization?

© 2011 Doug Dickerson

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