“Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes."

Last week's first blog in my series, "Myths of Advancement" was about getting everyone to the promised land in results and keeping that hungry bear from eliminating any from your team. This week's blog drills down more to how you can advance by ensuring others around you understand fully what THEY have to do to advance. To move ahead yourself, you have to move everyone around you forward, FIRST.

So, what exactly is a “blind squirrel”…? Well, a blind squirrel is a person who wants desperately to advance but, because of a lack of leadership and direction, has been left to "blindly" search out his own path to success. Left undeveloped by those responsible for his advancement, a blind squirrel chases all manner of shiny baubles hoping to find the real nuts that will get him noticed and, ultimately, get him where he wants to be. As the saying goes, "even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes!" But, while he's chasing all the wrong things, what happens to the business? And, even if he eventually stumbles onto the real thing is he, or she, really prepared to move up the management tree?

You may think that blind squirrels are harmless but they can, and do, wreck havoc in a business. Their desire to be noticed and advance - their blind search for that nut! - takes up all their time and keeps their focus on everything but the day to day operations. What's worse is that occasionally they get others caught up in their search and no one is doing what's necessary to grow the business. There's no place in any operation for a blind squirrel.

Have you ever been a blind squirrel? Or worse, have you, as a leader, ever been responsible for allowing blind squirrels to scurry around your organization?

First, since this blog is about dispelling advancement myths, let's look at how not to become a blind squirrel. You don't know specifically what's required to advance in your organization but you believe you're smart enough, savvy enough, and have what it takes to more forward. No one has told you this… you just feel it deep down inside. So, you go in search of BIG ways to be noticed. Simply running a good operation doesn't cross your mind. You're looking for that one BIG nut to present to the boss that will impress him and catapult you to the next level. Unfortunately, you have no idea what will impress your boss - and you haven't taken the time to find out - so you come up with your own ideas and begin focusing on them instead of running a solid business. Sound familiar? If so, you've been a blind squirrel!

Here are a few suggestions on how to avoid becoming a blind squirrel:
1. Stay focused on the basics of operational success at all times. You have a job to do and that job is Job One.
2. If advancement is part of your personal plan, find out what is required in your organization to move to the next level. There's no room for guessing here. Guessing wastes both time and energy - yours and the company's.
3. Get on your boss' agenda - his business priorities should be your priorities. If what you are working on day to day isn't what the boss wants you to be working on you'll be noticed, but not in a good way! The best way to get positive recognition is to help the boss achieve his goals.

Now, if you're a leader, how do you avoid blind squirrels in your organization? First and foremost…LEAD! Blind squirrels are a direct result of a lack of leadership. If you've left your passel of tree dwellers to find their own nuts - and trust me, they will search frantically to find food! - you have no one to blame but yourself for your business' poor results.

Here are a few suggestions on how to avoid creating a blind squirrel:
1. Let those you are leading know what is required to advance in your organization. Never assume that they know. What is obvious to you isn't always obvious to everyone.
2. Every squirrel needs a nut…so give them one before they find one on their own. Direction, goals, and tasks will keep them engaged in the business plan that is already in place so that they use their leadership talent to drive the correct agenda - your agenda! Have a development plan for everyone you are responsible for in your tree. No squirrel gets left to crawl around scrambling for nuts in the dark.
3. Call a blind squirrel out! When you see someone chasing something beside the right nut, say something and redirect them. Help them find whatever they need!

Remember, this syndrome is created by your lack of leadership. An engaged, directed, developed squirrel is never blind and never looking around in the dark for something you should have provided in the beginning. Leadership development is not about you, it's about those you are leading. Just as a broken clock is right twice a day, a blind squirrel will find a nut sometimes but the time and energy lost in the search are a waste that no business can afford.

Keep the squirrels happy…help them find their NUTS~! (You knew that was coming, right?)

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Tags: Swingley, blind, develop, leadership, squirrel

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Comment by Chris Reed on October 1, 2008 at 10:23am
Andy, I can't even begin to tell you how much I'm looking forward to rest of this series!

The communication aspect of avoiding the blind squirrel is key, and you do a great job of not only expressing it in this post but also practicing it in the "real world."
Comment by Sean Moloney on October 1, 2008 at 8:27am
How true, how true. We must look in the mirror and be honest woith ourselves before we can appropriately lead others. Your passion for development, energy and obtaining a focused result will always keep you at the top!

Great article Andy! Thank you!!
Comment by Perry Sholes on October 1, 2008 at 5:49am
Very cool and relevant topic...

Non-Operator
Comment by Mark Hamby on September 30, 2008 at 8:00pm
Very appropriate for my day today Andy!! Ties it all in together! Thanks!!
Comment by Henry Junnola on September 30, 2008 at 6:29pm
Very true. Thanks
Comment by Bill Baumgartner on September 30, 2008 at 4:58pm
Andy,

Great Post ! GREAT Post !! GREAT POST !!!

It is both fun, and filled with a wealth of useful advice.

Even the dumbest squirrel.
if he or she follows these principles,
can and will survive and even prosper.

I love the sunglasses and cane!
How did you get your squirrel to pose for this photo?

Bill
Comment by Joe Archuleta on September 30, 2008 at 1:32pm
Head knowledge acknowleges....................

Heart knowledge.....futility and cynicism must be eradicated to embrace this concept!

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