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Monday, June 13, 2022

Leave No Trace Leadership

Recently I attended a webinar by Douglas Dawson, Founder of Leg Up Solutions, titled the same as this post. As an Eagle Scout and Scout Leader in our local community these concepts really resonated with me. “The concept of Leave No Trace … is that when you are in the wilderness or out in nature in general, even the park in your neighborhood, you should leave no trace of your presence. You carry out what you pack in and you leave things better than you found them.”

There are seven principles of Leave No Trace. Douglas and his colleagues wondered if there was a way these seven principles could somehow be applied to leadership. They explored this idea and came up with the concept of Leave No Trace Leadership, establishing seven principles focused on leadership that leaves no trace of the executive, manager, or team member, other than, perhaps, fond memories and sustainable results. This requires the modeling of the two Shingo Guiding Principles mentioned earlier: Respect Every Individual and Lead with Humility.

#1 Think Ahead and Prepare

  • Manage as if you have no power. Practically speaking, you may not.
  • Think how can you better listen, coach and mentor others.
  • Develop consensus rather than coerce others to agree.
  • Consider daily about those with whom you will engage.

#2 Go & Observe Often

  • Go to where the work is done. Ideally twice a day.
  • Over time, cover all shifts and operations; direct and indirect.
  • Use questions to learn what you need. Don’t lecture.
  • Be purposeful in what you want to learn about the areas you visit.

#3 Support With Vigor

  • Be liberal with praise.
  • Teach skills enabling the workforce to make decisions at their level.
  • Celebrate mistakes as learning opportunities driving nearer the ideal.
  • Teach and model there is “gold in the red,” representing opportunity.

#4 Leave Things Better

  • Pick up trash when you see it.
  • Praise incremental improvement in behaviors and performance.
  • When someone is struggling, find a way to buoy them up.
  • Never denigrate another. Ever.

#5 Remove Bureaucracy

  • Eliminate obstacles for team members, as quickly as possible.
  • Use trust and confidence to streamline approvals of any sort.
  • Allow teams and team members to make their own decisions.
  • Remove processes, or process steps, that don’t make sense or add value.

#6 Respect Every Individual

  • Speak up if you see behavior that undermines respect for every individual.
  • Defend others, especially those not present.
  • Thank others frequently for their efforts.
  • Get over yourself and admit you are wrong. Say you are sorry.

#7 Model, Teach, Engage

  • Walk your talk.
  • Correct quickly. Yourself first, then others.
  • Acknowledge and recognize the smallest improvements of others.
  • Ask others what can be done better to Leave No Trace.

I believe that Leave No Trace Leadership is an important concept critical to organizations delivering sustainable results. It is more relevant and needed today than ever before. You can see the need as you look around the world. Whether you are an executive, manager, or team member, think about your leadership style. Are you planting trees the shade for which you know you will never sit under? Or are you chopping them down as you go?

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