If managers know their team members, then they know enough to let their team members succeed.

By Tom Moriarty
This article is part of our monthly Human Capital column. Read more from Tom Moriarty.
Sep 01, 2021

workforce leadership fist bump

I enjoy listening to Mike Rowe’s podcast series, called The Way I Heard It. The podcasts always start with some interesting piece of history, followed by a discussion with one of Rowe’s acquaintances. I enjoy listening because there is always a couple of gems in the podcast that make me laugh out loud.

I was listening to an episode and the historical beginning was about a locomotive greaser (old term for lubrication technician) who invented an auto-lube device in the 1870s. I won’t ruin the story for you by giving the punchline, but you’ll enjoy it. During episode 210, Rowe discussed something that happened during the taping of one of his early shows with an old friend named Sean McCourt, a producer on one of Rowe’s earlier television programs.

So, he leaned over the microphone and parroted the instructions. However, what McCourt did not do was depress the button that unmuted the microphone. He was talking into a dead microphone. The big-wig never knew.

What leadership lessons can we learn from this scenario?

1. Productive leaders should know their team members. McCourt understood that Rowe knew what he was doing. He had a history of excellence in doing his job. This is why organizations need a reasonable span of control (ratio of direct reports to leader). It allows leaders to get to know a group of people. When you know your team members you can identify their strengths and weaknesses. Leverage their strengths and train or coach them to improve their weaknesses. Don’t coach them on things they are expert at doing.

3. Have the fortitude to act. Productive leaders can’t just think about what they should do. They must be assertive and act. McCourt could have been spineless and simply passed the big-wig’s comments on to Rowe. He didn’t. He had the fortitude to act in the best interest of the objective. In this case McCourt acted by not unmuting the microphone.

Knowing your team members, having good judgment and acting in the best interest of the objectives will also enhance the level of trust between you and your team members.

Go forth and do great things.

This story originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.