There is no question that as a leader, you have different responsibilities than you had as an individual contributor. However, the best leaders realize it isn’t an either/or proposition. There is much to be said about leaders who are willing to get their hands dirty along with the rest of their team.
Before I explain my point further, let me say this isn’t a post to justify micromanagement or to imply that delegation isn’t important. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Rather, this post is about ways that you can, through your actions, both engage with and endear yourself to your team.
What is “the Dirty Work”?
The specifics of the dirty work will vary by company and your specific role. If you are in leadership in a manufacturing or a construction company, your dirty work might be really, well … dirty. In general, think of the dirty work as the stuff no one wants to do. It is unpleasant, difficult, tedious or there’s just so much of it that it feels overwhelming.
Ways to “Get Dirty”
- Lending a hand. A big order comes in. It is Black Friday. There’s a big push to finish a project. You are shorthanded due to illness. If you have the skills and experience to do the job, get up from behind your desk. Stack boxes. Pick up a phone or a shovel. Make a sale. The best leaders know that sometimes the best thing that they can be doing is physically help the team.
- Taking over other tasks in a pinch. Maybe you can’t do their job (or you are rusty and you end up being more of a problem than a help). In those cases, what other work is getting in the team’s way that you could do for an hour or a day that might help them? Perhaps that is your dirty work.
- Getting more help. That could mean providing more resources, shifting a timeline on other work, or bringing on additional staff. Show that you know your team is struggling, and provide the help they need.
- Finding other ways to engage. Maybe they don’t want you anywhere near their work, but perhaps you can do some of the paperwork, or buy the pizza or donuts, or find some other way to show your support for the team.
- Taking the time to effectively coach and train. You shouldn’t be doing the work of your team all the time. If you do, you aren’t allowing others to grow and you aren’t doing your own job. Often, the best thing you can do is to accurately, carefully and fully train your people to do their jobs more productively. When you do that, they will be better prepared and won’t need you to step in very often.
Think about ways and situations where you can pitch in and play a part, more as a team member than as a boss. When you show your team that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside them at the right times, you build credibility and gain their trust. If you want to be a great leader, remember that it is OK (and essential) to get dirty sometimes.
Photo Credit: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/handful-of-dirt-1-1400915