Leadership Lessons from a Six-Year-Old and a Shovel

A day at the beach is hard to beat for kids of any age.  My brother’s family recently spent a few days in Florida.  And if you are in Florida, a visit to the beach is a given.

One afternoon my nephew Joey approached his dad (my brother) and asked for a shovel.  “Dad,” he said, “I’m working.”  He got a shovel and off he went.

After several minutes my brother asked him what he was doing to which Joey replied, “I’m digging a tunnel to Nana and Papaw’s house!” Cute right?  Well it gets getter.

After a several more minutes Joey returns to his dad and says, “Dad, I think I need a bigger shovel.  This one’s just not doing the trick. I’ll have to finish this next year.”

This story is certainly one that has a “cute quotient” to it and no doubt, made my parents’ day (the Nana and Papaw in the story).  However this simple experience has some business principles we can learn from as well.

Your employees must have the right tools to successfully complete a task.
Tunnels from Florida to Kentucky are silly but my nephew was giving it his best shot.  His plastic shovel barely made a dent in the sand.   It’s the same for your team.  Do they have the necessary tools (training, mentoring, time with you, etc.) to be successful with what you expect them to do?

To be successful, you have to know where you going.
Joey had a finish line with his “project” – Nana and Papaw’s house.  Once he realized he wasn’t making the progress he needed (toward his goal), he asked for some tools. In our workplace, how often do we assume our team understands what they are supposed to do but also why it is important?

Employees need you to help them be successful.
Joey needed a shovel from him dad to help him dig his tunnel.  Without it, his project would have probably never begun.  The same is true with your team.  They need you to provide the vision, tools and encouragement to help them be successful.  In many cases they will do the work (and want to!) if they believe you are there and ready to support them to their success.

Well, Joey had to settle for seeing Nana and Papaw when he returned from Florida but he certainly got an ‘A for effort” in his attempt to dig that tunnel. 

What about you? Can you see any comparisons to a little beach trip in your team? Go ahead, grab that shovel!

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