Clean As You Go

Over the past few weeks Vicki and I have been doing some remodeling at our house. Some of the remodel has been pretty aggressive. In other words we made a huge mess. At one point in the process I spent about 15 minutes looking for my tape measure, pencil, or level. It was so frustrating.

We had stuff everywhere. I finally had to stop and clean up. Even though the job wasn’t even half done, I had to clean up. Have you been guilty of the same thing? Getting so excited about a project and start tearing into it and before you know it the mess is piling up around your ears and you can’t even move, find your tools, or continue the project.

As leaders, that is what we do, tear down, build up, remodel, restructure, and even start new. The problem, is if we don’t stop and clean up as we build up or tear down we spend more time working around the mess. I love to cook but I don’t like to clean. One thing I have found that if I clean as I go I have a more enjoyable time cooking and I have a place to put the food when it is finished cooking.

The same is true in building a family, friendship, marriage, career, community, church, or school. You have to take time and clean as you go. When you are leading people there are times to build them up and there are times you have to sharpen or tear some things out. If all you do is build and tear then the mess of the relationship piles up and before you know it there is no room for the family, marriage, friendship to progress.

The process of cleaning as you go is slow, but the amount of time spent working around the mess is even slower and more dangerous. Remember; not all managers are leaders but all leaders are managers. In other words, as a leader, you must spend time and focus on managing the hear and now as well as building for the there and then. There are three basic principles to cleaning as you go:

Put everything back in it’s place

The amount of time spent looking for tools that are not in their place is so frustrating. Even more frustrating is building a team that is not in their place. When tearing down or building up, it is at times all hands on deck. Everyone is part of the project. You may pull people off of their area and use them simply to get the job done. At some point, however, they need to go back to what they are called, hired, or gifted to do. If not you will be constantly looking for people that are not where they are supposed to be.

Clear out the rubble

During times of tearing down and building up there are piles of scraps, old material, left over items that need to be returned. Left alone these piles become dangerous. The same is true in building people. Old habits, hurt feelings, used or unused talent simply setting around, piled up, unattended or not dealt with can and will become as dangerous as a pile of rubble in a construction site.

Those working will tend to trip over the mess of building people and get hurt. Take time to clear out and clean up the mess that building up and tearing down make in people’s lives. As the leader, put systems, procedures, expectations, and policies in place that help build healthy relationships and effectively remove the debris, including individuals that are not adding to the team.

Make room for the finished project

When I cook and don’t clean as I go there is no room on the counter for the food. Realize that once you are done building you will have new teams, people, programs, systems, and procedures that need room to operate. As you are building or tearing clean up so you will have room for all the new incredible opportunities that come your way.

Cleaning as you go doesn’t seem as “fun” as building or tearing things up but if you are going to be a diligent leader, slow down and clean as you go. The results are amazing.

Question: How do manage while you lead?