The Leader as a Master Mechanic

It is amazing how many times a thought can come to you in an unlikely place, or at an unlikely time.


The master mechanic has many different sizes of wrenches in their toolbox. Would a master mechanic use a standard American wrench on a metric nut? I think not. Would the master mechanic use a ball peen hammer when a rubber mallet was called for? I sure as heck hope not.

So it must be with the leader and their utilization of team members. Think about the members of your team (department). Are there those who are quiet and reserved? Are there those who are outgoing and gregarious? I would imagine you have some of each in your organizational toolbox. Here is where the master mechanic analogy comes into play.

Let us say that you have to decide who will deliver a series of public fire prevention training sessions. Would it be better for you to select the quiet and withdrawn person? Or would you want an outgoing people-person member of your team to conduct those classes? All things being equal the answer seems to be fairly obvious. You would want to have the classes taught by someone who likes to interact with people.

This presumes that you have trained your staff in ways that emphasizes their strengths and minimizes their weakness. Here is where the master mechanic concept comes to the fore again. The wise mechanic keeps their tools in working condition. The wise mechanic knows the value of their tools and does not abuse them. They insure that the tools are cleaned after use and placed back in the proper place in their toolbox.

Think back to that time when you tossed a wet wrench back into the toolbox without drying and oiling it. What did you find when next you wished to use that tool? If my experience is any guide at all, you will find a rusty wrench that is not up to the task for which you have chosen it. This lack of the proper tool at the appropriate moment hinders your ability to get the job done in a timely fashion.

So too is it with the people who make up your organization. Let me offer another view of the example given above. Let us say that you choose to give the task of teaching the public education classes to someone who is not comfortable interacting with people. What might the consequences be for you, that person, and your organization?

In the first place, that individual will probably not do the best possible job. This could lead to a mental letdown that can have long-term consequence for that person. The unhappy person could possibly become a drag on your team. Their attitude has the potential to affect the attitude of other team members who might come to fear you. They would see what you had done to one person and begin to wonder and worry about whether you might do the same thing to them.

Another possibility is that this situation could also lead to a group of unhappy customers. They might begin to make your life difficult. They could go to your supervisor and ask that pressure be put upon you to do a better job in selecting speakers and educators. That puts the pressure on you.

What have you done? You have created enemies. Sun Tzu wrote centuries ago that the making of unnecessary enemies was an action that a wise warrior should not take. These enemies could act in one of two ways. They could attack you. They could seek to undermine your team.

As a matter of fact, it could become even worse than that. You enemies might decide that it would be advantageous for them to form alliances. They could then conspire against you. It that case, you would then be battling a growing array of forces, not really knowing when or where the next would occur. All because you failed to act as the master mechanic would. These travails will dog your life simply because you chose the wrong tool for the job.

How might you avoid the hazards of selecting the wrong tool? My answer to you will be simple indeed. However implementing my suggestions will be difficult, in that they will require you to devote time to becoming a proactive leader. My suggestions might also require you to change your way of leading, and we all know how hard it is to change.