Recently I was having a conversation with a friend and the subject turned to pressure washing. I brought it up thinking that maybe I would feel better if I at least talked about the work I had been putting off for weeks. It turned out that my friend was somewhat of a pressure washing “expert.” He gave me a few tips and I headed for home ready for action. A few hours later I felt like I had a new house (except for a few places where I knocked the paint off – but that’s another story).
As I moved along blasting the grime off of my property several leadership thoughts came to mind. Whether you are leading a company or simply trying to lead yourself, these are good reminders for us all.
#1 – Begin Barefoot! This is my way of saying, “Keep it simple.” When I first started, I wore a pair of old leather shoes. Within minutes they were soaked. No big deal . . . they were just yard shoes. What was a big deal was that I kept wearing them as they got heavier and heavier. About an hour into the job I decided to simplify. I learned a valuable lesson. Barefoot is better when water is involved.
Last week I met with a business leader who is desperately seeking some simplicity in her life and work. I bet you can relate. Big time leaders are often pulled into complex schedules only to discover that simple is better. Sadly, some leaders never recognize their need to simplify and they either flame out or end up buried under an avalanche of leadership demands.
It is easier to start simple and stay simple than it is to start complex and try to go backward!
Action Step: Identify 3 areas of your life where you need to “go barefoot” and take a specific step toward simplicity in the next week in each area.
#2 – Beware of the Bleach! My friend recommended to me that I spray some Clorox on the surfaces of my porch before I began blasting. I did and the results were amazing. What he failed to remind me of was that when it comes to plants Clorox takes no prisoners. The result a couple of days later is a clean porch and a bunch of little brown dots on a some of my shrubs. I learned the hard way that Clorox can be misused.
For leaders words can be a lot like Clorox. Used correctly, they can encourage, inspire, motivate, and build up followers. However, the wrong words can be toxic. When a leader is critical, cynical, negative, or profane followers are affected, often times wilting under the toxic influence of their leader.
Action Step: Identify a person who you are trying to lead that can use a word of encouragement. Make a decision to publicly affirm them or to send them a private note of appreciation in the coming week.
#3 – Practice Persistence! Pressure washing is a lot like leadership . . . It’s harder than it looks. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not rocket science. But it is work. When it comes to pressure washing nothing beats persistence. An inch by inch decision to stay the course leads to a clean surface of accomplishment.
Years ago, a friend of mine brought up the idea of running a marathon. I wasn’t even a runner at the time, so 26.2 miles sounded like lunacy to me. Since that day years ago I have completed 4 marathons. How did I do it? One step at a time (and very slowly I might add).
Great leaders stay the course when those around them drop out. Great leaders have a mission and they practice persistence until the mission is accomplished.
Action Step: Identify an area that needs some additional time from you in the coming week and make a commitment to grind it out and clean things up no matter what it takes.
I leave you with this thought . . . The power of the pressure washer is found in its focus. The more concentrated the stream of water, the more powerful is its force. Likewise, focus is the key for a leader. If you will make it your focus to keep things simple, choose your words wisely, and practice persistence in the coming days, there is no limit to your potential for influence.
Now go make it happen!
Note: Originally published 7.14.09 as “The Power of the Pressure Washer”