I was outside pulling some weeds this morning in the front yard. It's frustrating to have to go out every week, pulling the weeds just to have other sprout up in their place. And I realized that my problem is that I am pulling the larger weeds out, but the smaller ones that are harder to see are left to grow. Those are the ones for next week!!

That's a lot like the many problems we face as leaders. Every day there are several fire drills that we deal with. The one's that have the most impact to our performance or the “loudest” one tend to get the immediate attention. But what about those 'small weeds' or smaller issues that are out there. Left alone, those issues tend to grow and become next week's big weed.

Let's say that you manage 15 people. All 15 have specific start and end times to their shift. The majority of your team honors the start and end times, and overall you do not have a major issue with the service level your team provides. But you do have 2 people that tend to be the last ones in the office and usually the first ones to leave. A closer look will tell you that they are a few minutes late, and leave a few minutes early. It's not effecting the team or your customers 'yet', but you notice that each week the times grow by small amounts.

So how does this example grow into larger weeds? Well two issues here. One, you can see the trend that the 2 team members continue to add time to each side of their shift, and will eventually be 10-20 minutes late each day and leave early by several minutes. The trend says it will become a problem, so you have to stop the trend, as it will have a negative impact on service levels at that point.

The second issue, and a much more significant one, is these 'weeds' will eventually start to grow new, smaller weeds. You will soon have a patch of weeds and it will take a lot of effort to remove them. In other words, for the 13 team members that are working the times they are supposed to, they begin to see that this behavior of being late and leaving early is acceptable. One day they have an issue and would really like to be home just a few minutes early. Or the get out of bed late, but realize that even if they do take the time to stop for coffee on the way, you won't care. Now you have many people on your team coming and going at times that are outside the required shift, and the level of service has tanked!!

So the moral of this story is to be aware every day of the small weeds that may be growing. When someone does show up just a few minutes late, make sure you acknowledge it by asking if everything is OK. You're not angry, just sending a subtle message that you are aware, and it can't become a habit. This will product a great performing team that respects you and those around them. And, you won't be pulling weeds week after week.

Certified Coach, successful leader, and owner of the new leader training and mentoring site http://LeadershipMentor.com
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