THE SCREWDRIVER VS. THE HAMMER

For the first blog entry for my new blog, Toolbox Treasures, I want to welcome all of you who visited the blog and visited my website, thomasfinneran.com. Most of you were probably directed to the website or the blog as a result of the EBook that I just released – Top 10 Leadership Lessons: Commonsense Leadership Tools for the Shift Supervisor and Chief Executive Alike. Just as the book provides leadership tools for leaders and aspiring leaders, this blog will aim to serve the same function – provide information, examples, and lessons … tools … for individuals to consider regarding leadership. So where would you keep these tools? You’d keep them in a toolbox of course, hence the name of the blog.

To set some expectations, I intend to write a blog entry once a week, and perhaps more frequently if time permits. I hope people will look forward to the weekly treasure in the toolbox that gets them thinking about leadership, and how they can be better leaders for the people they serve. With that, here’s the first treasure.

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Although there are a few variations of the quote, Abraham Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” As someone who assumes a leadership position for the first time, you might not have a lot of tools in your toolbox. That is where this blog – and the book – will hopefully come in handy. They give you some commonsense tools for leadership so you don’t see every problem as a nail because you only have a hammer. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you were just promoted up one level in your organization. You’ve moved from Director of Training to Vice President of Human Resources; from backup quarterback to starting quarterback; from squadron director of operations to squadron commander; from manager of a retail or hardware store to district manager of 10 stores; from night cashier to night shift supervisor; and so on. In your new leadership role, you could approach it with an attitude that now that you are in charge you’re going to make some big changes and achieve things the way you expect them to be done, with no or little consideration to how objectives were accomplished in the past. That’s the hammer and the nail. Once you hit a nail into a piece of wood, it is in, and it’s usually pretty hard or impossible to get out. If you enter a new leadership role implementing rigid changes with the only input to the new procedures coming from your way of thinking and your ideas without consulting anyone else, those changes may be put in place, but if later they’re found to have some flaws, they’ll be difficult to change, much like the difficulty of getting that nail out of the wood.

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If on the other hand you discuss your ideas for change with team that you are leading, not to necessarily get consensus on all of your ideas, but to at least let them understand your thought process and give them an opportunity to express ideas of their own and constructive comments on your ideas, then the changes that are implemented are more likely to be successful. Likewise, if a change was not quite the right fit, because others were involved in the initial decision, it will be easier to get their buy-in to make adjustments. This approach is like using a screwdriver. A screw will secure an item to a piece of wood just like a nail, but the screwdriver can adjust how tightly the screw is inserted, and has the flexibility to loosen or remove the screw if it is determined it needs to be moved to a different location or just removed entirely.

As you enter any new leadership role, look at problems as more than nails and don’t try to solve them all with a hammer. Try looking at the problem as a screw that can be tightened to provide the same strength as a nail, but because of its design, can also be loosened or removed much easier than a nail. If the problem is a screw, you can provide strength and flexibility at the same time with your solution. Be the screwdriver!