5 for 5 blog – Getting your hands dirty

10 Oct

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“Know your spend!”

If I heard this once, I heard it a hundred times while I was a category manager. What my boss was trying to tell us was “Get your hands dirty, get into the data”. Too often we would show up in a negotiation set a target and expect the supplier to hit it, which is horrible strategy on many levels.

What my boss was teaching uswas that to be successful required knowing the many variables that could influence our discussions. Were we helping to increase the supplier’s revenue? What had we learned about the true costs? What were we learning from our peers who faced off with the customer? The only way we could be truly prepared was by really getting our hands dirty…doing the hard preparation.

Today I am blessed to work with a large global team. Each of my team are digging deep into their own spend and me less so. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of chances to get me hands dirty but I miss the days of digging around through the raw data and seeing new trends and new opportunities to enable our clients.

This past week, there was a new initiative that has been challenging me and I had set aside some time to go through a key data set. It was just like old times: learning about a process, seeing things we were missing, and doing some analysis to check assumptions. It was like being put in a time machine and being sent back ten years.

As much as I enjoyed the little dip in data on my drive home I started thinking about when and why leaders should be getting their hands dirty:

  • Leaders should not be constantly looking over their team’s shoulders to micromanage. The job is to connect the team to why the data or process is critical, establish good leading metrics, and get out of their way.
  • On the other hand, before exploring new initiatives, introducing new metrics, or building cases to pitch for the teams you are best to have dirt under your fingernails. Being intimate with the data and what it is telling, or not telling, you is important.

I heard it best described in one of Gary Vaynerchuk’ s you tube posts as being in the clouds and dirt. Smart leaders know where to spend their time to make a difference for their team’s and their clients. Sometimes that means being in the clouds….other times in the dirt.

Here’s this week’s 5 for 5 articles:

Why Etsy engineers send company-wide emails confessing mistakes they made – by Max Nisen

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think – by Rebecca Beris

A Short Guide to Starting, if You’re Struggling – by Leo Babuta

Why Great Leaders Aim For Influence, Not Control – by Todd Henry

Do what you’re good at, or… – by Seth Godin

all the best, kevin