Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

In January we suggested that you spend more time in the field. As we enter Q4 it is worth revisiting this extremely important leadership activity.

We frequently ask leaders, "What behavior do you need to work on that would have the biggest improvement on organizational health and performance?" What is your answer? The number one response we receive, regardless of industry, is time in the field. Some responses were: "I need to be in the field to ensure the folks know how important what they are doing is." - - "How do I know they understand our expectations if we don't observe our associates in the actual performance of their jobs?" - - "Praising or coaching a behavior in the moment is so much more powerful than after the fact." - - - "Money is made . . . or lost . . . in the field, not behind my desk."

Who could argue with these reasons? However, when pushed a little more to understand what a typical week looks like, we find that leaders spend 24-44 hours a week in meetings or reviewing reports and metrics. Unfortunately, this does not leave much time to be close to your associates in the field.

What does ‘time in the field' mean? The truth is it should mean different things to different people. If you are the first line supervisor of a maintenance crew, it means having the correct PPE (personal protective equipment) on, and being in the field where the work is taking place. If I am leading a customer service department, it might mean walking the floor where calls come in and periodically listening in on a call. In all cases, it means providing real-time, and specific, coaching and feedback! "Good job reviewing the check-list prior to performing that task!" or "To be even more effective next time, you might try . . ."

Stephen R. Covey would call ‘time in the field' a Quadrant II activity, not urgent, but important. Ironically, we say "YES" to the urgent because we give it a false sense of importance. Some people go from one urgency to another, and in the absence of urgencies don't really know what to do. It is true that some things arise that must be handled, but the challenge most of us face is saying "NO" to the unimportant.

We all want more hours in the day, but the truth is we get the same twenty-four as everyone else. What can you say "NO" to, so that you can say "YES" to getting in the field? What is the consequence (positive or negative) if you miss one or two meetings a week? Conversely, what is the consequence (positive or negative) if you spend one or two hours a week in the field?

So, here is the challenge: finish your Q4 strong with a purposeful presence in the field.

We all need to ramp up our time in the field. ELP Founder and Principal Robin Bichy is ready to share how ELP can improve yours. Her first name is her email: