Story Of The Saltshaker

A Critical Doer understands time; long and short view 

There must be something mystical about a saltshaker.  Jimmy Buffet had one in “Margaritaville”, lost it, and apparently spent a lot of energy looking for it.  It also contains wisdom for a Critical Doer in how to think through a problem before making a decision.

When interviewing for a job or trying to make a sale during a meal, people will watch to see if you salt your food before tasting it.  If you do, it’s interpreted as a sign that you make snap judgments based upon preconception rather than gathering evidence and then making a decision.  Gathering evidence before deciding is a very desirable trait, and one that is extremely crucial in deciding when to make changes in an organization.

When assuming a new leadership role, some people will make changes within a heartbeat of taking charge.  The reasons include ideas about the way things should be done, “whispers” from people within the organization, or an instant diagnosis based upon previous experience.

Instant change without cause can be very destabilizing to an organization.  The result could be loss of confidence in the leader for moving forward without understanding the environment, loss of customer confidence, and the both could be financially devastating to the point of an existential threat.

Here are some guidelines you can follow when you are in a leadership situation and change is needed:

  1. Do your own homework. Politics are a fact of life in academia, business, home…and politics!  You can use others to gather and present data, but understanding what it means and the decisions that follow are the purview of the leader.
  2. Listen, including the voices that run apart from the herd. There’s a military principle old as time called “unity of command but diversity of counsel” that author Michael A. Roberto in The Leadership Challenge documented back to the time of Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great.  Take in as many perspectives as you can, never losing sight that they all may be right and none are completely right.
  3. The heart and soul of any organization is people.  Figuring out who you can trust for honest and well-intended counsel is crucial.  Look for talent not being used in the right places, ask questions that could shine light on quality of training, and the ones with ideas that could give you a competitive edge.
  4. The engine room. The movies always show the bridge, but the engine room makes the ship move.  Figure out the activities in an organization that “ring the cash register” literally and figuratively.  Invest time quickly learning how the core processes of your enterprise work so you make decisions that help and not hinder.  This is such a crucial step, not only from a mechanical perspective but also in building trust that you’re willing to jump in the pit with the team and learn from the ground up.
  5. Is it better to implement change quickly or slowly?  Trick question…you do it at the right time.  If its obvious change is needed, the timing works better to move out expeditiously while the organization expects it.  A more methodical approach could work better in a mature organization that’s on top of its game.

You really can learn a lot from a saltshaker.  Making decisions that are timely but data driven consistently enable greater levels of achievement long term and short.  Find a situation where you can apply the wisdom of the saltshaker and you’ll unlock your organization’s full potential.  It’s what a Critical Doer would…do!


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Updated: August 13, 2015 — 10:39 am