I remember distinctly working on a tree house with my Dad on a bright sunny day (one where you squint your eyes because the sun is so bright). That day he taught me an important lesson about how leaders anticipate needs. He was framing the walls for the tree house (think 10′ tall by 10′ with an 8′ ceiling) while I was helping as a much as a ten-year-old boy could help. As I was standing there helping he asked me “Why didn’t you hand me more nails?” I wasn’t sure what he was getting at. “You didn’t ask me to get your nails,” I replied. He said “Dave, you need to learn to anticipate a need. Watch what I do, and learn what I am going to need. Get it to me before I need it!”
That’s a scene that was familiar in my childhood (took me a long time to start learning the lesson). I thought that you needed “anticipating a need” as a skill to be a good employee until a few years ago. Now I am starting to realize that having leaders anticipate needs is an essential tool.
The best business leaders are forward-looking. They plan for the next payroll, the following year, and the next ten years. Understanding cash flows in the company, and anticipating seasonal ebbs and flows in the company. Instead of thinking about immediate crisis’, improvements that may not take effect for several months or years are what leaders focus on.
No plan is actually a plan to fail. That’s why it’s important for leaders to anticipate needs.
Firstly as a leader, your job is to be the chief “need anticipator.” You support everyone else in the company and help them define success in their careers. The leader makes sure that each employee is equipped to provide the customers with the best possible service or product. Leaders see the tools employees will need before the employee realizes it and gives it ahead of time.
Secondly, don’t underestimate the importance of forwarding thinking. Plan for the future and expect change. Learn how to adapt to new technologies and concepts. Embrace them, don’t fear them. That’s how you anticipate the needs of your employees. See the vision of where your company is going (and can go).
Lastly, take the “leaders anticipate needs” principle into your relationship with your employees. Think about how they can (and hopefully will) grow and what roles you can open for them in your company (plan for their success). Is there something that they excel in that you could expand into a new part of your business? Are they talented at landscape design, but you are currently only a Lawn service company? Ask yourself if the company could expand into that, but only if you can handle it correctly.
Leaders are never at the top of the pyramid in their companies. In other words, a leader is pointless if he doesn’t have any followers. His job is to serve his followers and provide them with the tools that they need to excel at their jobs. Leaders help managers who serve customers that get services and products from the company.
How can you help your employees have a better season this year? How can you improve your system (company) to serve clients better? What technologies are you worried about?
Upside down pyramid example from Linkedin