Hammer when necessary, but water gets it done more reliably.

22 01 2015

“Thaw, with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer.  The one melts, the other breaks into pieces.” ~Henry David Thoreau

My own spin on this quote’s point is “water over stone”.  Water has worn great channels over stone (i.e. the Grand Canyon, Niagara River, etc.), but it takes patience.  Hammers are loud, destructive, and tend to lead to busted things lying around at the end of the project.  In crisis situations, where you need to gather the will of your team and focus it to a quick end, hammers can be used.  But over-use of the hammer will not be good for your career.  Hammer leaders are great on the battlefield, but less great in a corporate setting.

You, as a leader, may know in your heart what needs to be done when faced with a situation.  This could be anything from restructuring a company, to piloting a new line of service to getting a troublesome person off your team.  However, you’re constrained by cultural norms, Compliance or HR rules, or the reputation that you are trying to keep as a level-headed leader.  Whether you’re trying to grow, change, or shrink your team, or you want to radically change what you’re doing as a leader, it’s great to have that vision, and work towards it – but you can’t do it with a hammer too often.  Be persistent, intelligent, speak often about your vision, and quietly work towards your goal.  Gentle persuasion (i.e. water over stone) will get you there much more smoothly, and you won’t be “that jerk” who tried to bulldoze towards the goal by flaunting your positional power.  Work towards consensus by being firm in your convictions, gathering and sharing data to reinforce your point, and keeping a slow, steady momentum towards it.  By the time you’re half-way there, folks around you will see the end game, and momentum will grow.

Speaking of Hammer…


Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com




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