As I began this column, I reviewed the chapters of the manuscript which started me in writing about business leadership.
After re-reading JD Waits and my original manuscript, “The Pretty Good Management Book, I began to reconsider what need to be included in the revision I am currently writing. That early manuscript was not only useful, but it was funny and on point. Small business owners, front line managers, and even behemoth corporate first and second tier executives, could use it to improve their and their subordinates’ performance.
For example, an early chapter, “Shoot the Wolf Closest to the Sled,” was primarily JD’s, emphasizing leaders need to resolve the biggest and baddest problem first and not get distracted by toy poodles, noisy little ankle biters. Toy poodles are annoyances, distractions to the main business of shooting that wolf.
“What It Was Wasn’t Football” was partially my homage to Andy Griffith’s old 45 RPM record describing a hillbilly figuring out the idea behind football: “the feller was trying to get down that striped field with that watermelon without getting knocked down or stepping in something.” Andy’s explanation led to the fact we must know the purpose and the rules of the game of the business we are playing.
The chapter entitled “Hunt Possums at Night Unless You’re Looking for Road Kill” may have been the genesis of my intended revision. The chapter explains possum hunters must stick to the basic fact you aren’t going to catch possums in daytime. Business leaders need to stick to the basics of leadership. In my revised book, I call the basics “elements.” boiling leadership down to the essentials. We can get really messed up if we wander far from the basics.
“Never Take a Duck to a Cockfight, Expecting to Win” addresses the necessity of proper preparation. We must know what we are selling and the market in our business but also in our leadership of our business. In today’s competitive world, we must be on the lookout for every advantage, be prepared for any situation that might arrive, and be sure that the cure is not worse than the problem. We also must adapt to the ever changing environment. In other words, we have to do our homework and anticipate what is out there in our company’s operation and in our market.
“The 2x4 Theory of Mule Management” chapter discusses leadership and management and how the successful leader has a handle on both. In order to do either we must get the attention of those we lead inside or outside our business. Sometimes, as the old mule trainer did, we must smack that mule between the eyes with a two-by-four.
“How to Effectively Delegate without People Thinking You Are Fat and Lazy” is a tongue-in-cheek admonishment for leaders who tend to micromanage. The most effective business leaders get the most out of their followers doing the work, not doing all of it themselves. It is a lesson not often learned, or at least, not heeded.
“Calling ‘Sooey’ Rarely Brings the Chickens to the Barn” is the chapter addressing the most common lack in any organization: effective communication. We won’t get chickens when we use the old farmer’s cry for calling in the cows to milk.
Ordering and purchasing is critical to any organization, especially in a manufacturing or production business. The original chapter entitled “The Material Black Hole” gives the leader something to think about in having an effective process for getting what is needed on time.
“Measure with a Micrometer; Mark It with a Brush; Cut It with an Ax” is an old construction axiom and another chapter in the manuscript. It addresses the leader’s penchant for meticulous planning, followed by ignoring those plans in the heat of getting the job done.
When reviewing the original “The Pretty Good Management Book,” I realized something I had not yet addressed in my revision. JD and I had fun coming up with those chapter titles and writing about the topics. Having fun is a good measure of how we are doing as leaders. Our managers, employees, customers, suppliers, etc. should have fun. The leaders should have fun.
Of course, any work has moments where it is not fun. Sometimes even appropriate anger is required. But if fun isn’t a major part of leading, then something is wrong and needs to be fixed.
Jim Jewell is a retired Navy commander living in San Diego and working for Pacific Tugboat Service. He was the director Navy’s West Coast leadership training, has been an executive coach, and a consultant/facilitator in teambuilding and organizational development. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.