Seven Steps to Becoming a ‘Shovel Ready’ Leader

We’ve heard quite a bit lately about “ shovel  ready” projects usually framed as “construction projects ready-to-go” but just in need of a bit of “stimulus.”

Well, in these difficult times, with perhaps more to come, the hour as arrived for our leaders to become  shovel  ready. It’s time for you to get  shovel  ready. It’s time for all of us to become part of the stimulus.

To me, the term  shovel  ready means that some advanced thought and effort has precipitated the ability to be ready.

With that in mind, I have devised Seven Steps to becoming a  Shovel  Ready Leader(TM).

1. Passion: Even amid all of the chaos swirling around you, your family or your organization, you must find a few moments to reflect on what you really are passionate about. Ask yourself why you care about this? Without knowing this key ingredient, you might dig in the wrong direction. Write your responses down. Reflect on them often, especially during moments of hesitation.

2. Presence: This does not mean propping yourself up with your  shovel  as others do the work or plopping behind your desk in your favorite pinstripes. Leadership is a moment-to-moment choice. To be a  Shovel  Ready Leader(TM) you must be authentically present to those around you at all times. You need to completely close the gap between your beliefs and behaviors. To do this you must be aware of what you stand for and why. Your core values are key to your success. Dig too far away from your core and a bottomless pit of dismal outcomes awaits you. Please note, presence includes listening, not just hearing.  Shovel  Ready Leaders(TM) are active listeners. They use questions as teaching tools. When you listen deeply, you create a credibility path so others not only want to join with you, but lobby for the honor.

3. Voice: This is not about raising your voice over the din. It’s about discovering your true voice and helping others find theirs. Storytelling is the key.  Shovel  Ready Leaders(TM) find elements from past stories about overcoming adversity that help him or her make sense of what is ahead and how to frame the future Vision Story. Moreover, your Vision Story must offer a terrain map of a positive future and everyone’s role in it. Speaking from your heart will attract others who will join you in this new quest moving them away from chaos and towards commitment. However, in your workplace, where change may be greeted with anything but open arms, people may need to be personally and warmly invited. Just because they work in the same organization doesn’t mean they feel a part of what’s next. Invite them personally and share the benefits of picking up a  shovel  with you.

4. Action: Grab your  shovel , dig a deep trench and shove those “never been helpful” limiting thoughts deep into the ditch and bury them for good. Your mind is your most valuable ally. Yet, it can be your most ardent adversary. When you take charge of your mind, you begin to take charge of your life.  Shovel  Ready Leaders(TM) understand leading is about doing not just talking. Question everything, especially those redundant systems and those deep potholes potentially masked as your policies and procedures. When you do that, you will help others see obstacles as opportunities.

5. Service: Being of service is a way of life. Choose it. Being a  Shovel  Ready Leader(TM) means not looking at those around you as tools in your “Tim The Tool Man” belt. You don’t call them “my people.” You are not the “boss” of them; you are their servant leader. You honor them as individuals and refuse to use them as a “mosh pit” of automatons. You purposely create a diversified cast of talented fellow leaders. Many of them should be smarter than you and preparing to succeed you if you’re lucky. When you recognize and reward, you think about it in advance. You don’t just toss thank you bouquets to the masses as you mosey down the hallway. You acknowledge them meaningfully, and not with an “Attaperson” print out from the copy machine either. Learn about the people who have rolled up their sleeves with you and acknowledge them personally. Your goals should include focusing on helping them create their masterpiece.

6. Evolve: Incremental or giant leaps. You choose. The  Shovel  Ready Leader(TM) is a rabid learner. SRL’s never plateau. They are always stretching themselves and others. Read voraciously and encourage others to do the same. Seek out other learners as well. Create a Book Club at work and use all types of books (like my book, The Offsite: A Leadership Challenge Fable) to ignite a leadership conversation with your team. Always be ready to try new things. “It’s the way we’ve always done things” is not the battle cry of  Shovel  Ready Leaders(TM).

7. Demonstrate: Exhibit the above behaviors every moment by using my simple but effective The Four Commitment Questions(TM) “What Can I Do More Of? What Can I Do Less Of? What Can I Start Doing? What Can I Stop Doing?” Commit to this new way of living. Without commitment, nothing changes. Not you. Not them. Nothing.