Leading People – Been in MY Boots Lately?

CHANCES ARE IT DOES not require news of patriotic truckers, carried jerry cans like a scene from a movie, stand-offs in foreign countries, or some new alphabetically named strain of a virus to convince you the world has gone trucking crazy, and many have lost their trucking mind.

Read that again. Did you consider swapping out two letters? Amazing how much of a difference two small letters could make, isn’t it? Now, apply the same idea to two small words or even to one or two seemingly small decisions. What if those who lead those who do the locating transpose two numbers on today’s work order?

When leaders have spent years leading, their skills receive development in that area. Their familiarity is no longer in performing the task or using the equipment and the awareness they have of the impact of those seemingly small decisions can often appear to be missing. In fact, that awareness likely IS missing if the last time they walked in your shoes or strode in the dirt to do a location of anything below the surface was a decade ago or longer. The dirt hasn’t changed, and the boots are probably still the same, but out of touch is the reality and well, if the boot fits, what do you do about it? Throwing a fit might get them to ask you to quit. Stewing over it and staying quiet does no good for anyone, you included. There must be better options and, in fact, here are three of them.

Mark Your Lines

When the call comes in, the order goes out and you receive the request to go find cables, lines, pipes or other goodies just below the surface. You gather all the right colored flags, ensure you’ve got the right equipment, hop in the truck, and get to locating. What you don’t do is set the orange flags at a higher level than the blue or green ones. What you don’t do is declare whose flag placement is more valid or more important. You locate the information with no emotion, no ego, and likely no conflict. It’s the function of the locator’s job and position.

When decisions are made by the higher up who may not have walked a mile in your boots, mark your lines in much the same way that you would for the client. Prepare your case. Gather your information. Mark out the pros and cons or consequences and then and only then, share the information in the same method void of emotion, with which you’d share information on a request to locate. Locate the problem. Avoid causing a new one.

Dig Carefully

People, and this includes all leaders, can get rather territorial and defensive about being called on the carpet or being accused of creating a problem on purpose. Dig into this issue carefully. Those you report to don’t like being pointed out or called out with the intent to make them look dumb or at least completely misinformed.

Check your motive for making mention of a possible poor decision, bad choice, or with either, possibly unforeseen consequences. If those who lead you have made a decision that makes it clear they’ve not walked a mile in your boots for a minute, dig carefully around the issue of them having every right to make a leadership decision and the issue of the fact that such a decision may have missed a few important areas of impact. Use tact. Use discretion.

Relocate When Necessary

In some situations, your information gathered on a locate job may cause the client to relocate their project. That is not an easy conversation to have should you be the one who must have it, however, imagine inviting your boss to relocate his or her desired project or direction based on your newly announced information?

Most would choose that client chat if given the option. The truth is there may be times in which consequences or not and negative impact from someone who seems out of touch or not, you may need to choose to relocate your frustration or set it aside all together. Be willing to make that one of your options. Even if you’ve marked your lines and gathered information with precision, saying nothing may still be the best option. Even if you’ve danced around the issue, kept your emotions off the property, and not gone off the reservation as you dug carefully into how to approach the issue, relocating your desire to speak up about it to another, less controversial topic, may still be your best decision.

A leader, boss, or manager may be faced with needs that outweigh the inconvenience of those with boots on the ground and doing the job in the field. It doesn’t mean they don’t care. Sometimes it just means stuff changed. It may feel for a moment like the whole world has lost its trucking senses, but what it likely means is the change just needs a minute to settle and that once it does, your boots will once again get to do what they were made for … walking that future build location.

Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist, keynote speaker, and executive coach. For more information on her books, training firm or coaching services, call 1-866-382- 0121, or go to www.ContagiousCompanies.com.

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