Getting Your Hands Dirty to Stay in the Game

We’ve all been there, either as an employee, manager or business owner; where we think all our processes are perfect and our methods are unquestionable. I’m not saying this sense of satisfaction isn’t true, of course you should be proud of what you have achieved, however, it’s important not to lose focus and simply never re-assess.

What is there to lose by sitting back for a minute, taking a deep breath and looking at what is going on around you? You might be thinking “I don’t need to, business is great right now!” but this can lead to complacency, and if you’re not careful, your winning streak could quickly come to a halt. Your competitors are always looking for new ideas and new strategies on how to become number one, so to be competitive you must do the same!

Make time

As a manager it is quite easy to be ‘trapped’ in the four walls of your office and you are not to blame for this. Time is an incredible resource and one that we wish we all had more of. However, isn’t it great to know that you have control over this, you are actually able to go into your calendar and block out a two hour time slot to get out of those four walls and see what is really happening on the frontline of your business. Blocking out these two hours might sound a little inconvenient, but isn’t impossible, especially if you consider what you might get in return. Getting your hands dirty to stay in the game will not only develop you as a person, it will establish you as a leader amongst your team. Your employees will have a great deal of respect for you if you are seen, heard and show appreciation for the work that is being performed, by being present.

Complacency is your enemy

I have personally experienced being ‘trapped in my four walls’ and although my knowledge of policies and procedures were at a high level, how can I be positive that these were actually being carried out by the team I was working with? The figures and finances were looking steady from the back end, however the word ‘steady’ does not sit well with me, as I knew that we had to always be one step ahead to be a leading business. By getting my hands dirty and working along side all staff, I had a true indication of what was really going on in the business – I had my finger on the pulse.

Taking the first step

I was a little nervous, to say the least, when I first adopted this strategy. was I actually going to have to perform tasks that I actually didn’t know how to do? However, was I going to get it right? I haven’t seen this button before, I wonder what it does? People will be looking at me and observing what I was doing – This was a perfect opportunity to step up and lead by example. I recall sitting on reception for 30 minutes, just to get a feel for how busy our administration team were and what our service delivery was like in the crucial stage of welcoming a customer. It was fantastic being able to speak with the customer face-to-face, taking phone calls and not only witnessing, but being a part of the multi-tasking that was required in this position. Not only was I seeing what was happening or what improvements were required, I was also gaining respect from the team as they witnessed me getting in touch with the clients and the staff as a team member, not as their manager. This was very important, removing the manager label and working as a team member. The minute you mention your title to clients you will be treated differently, I did not want this to happen – I would prefer the real experience of what was happening on the frontline of the business.


I am fortunate now where I am in a position where I can continue to get my hands dirty by visiting one of our programs or facilitating a corporate professional development day. When I am visiting a program, I try to arrive unannounced, not for the reason of surprise or micro management, rather to experience the ‘reality’ of the present. To be truthful it actually helps develop me as a person and a leader by having the exposure and involvement in our programs. I know my place and know when to participate and when to sit back and enjoy the ride, that’s what makes it exciting for me. By being involved I am unconsciously aware of the environment I am in and always observing and thinking of ideas and strategies to improve. I will once again use the word ‘reality’ as this is the most important aspect of getting your hands dirty. If you turn a blind eye or choose not to believe what is going on then you are doing more damage than you may realise.


We are living in a technologically advanced world and everything is so quick these days. This means that the faster things move the quicker they change, hence we need to ensure we are aware of what is really happening around us and keeping our skills fresh and current. This also goes for those who are returning to work and haven’t used their skills for a while – be excited about the opportunity to learn. Things may not be the same as they were before but embrace it and recognise that this is a good thing. Some of us might have qualifications from 10 or more years ago and the theory behind the learning is very relevant, however I believe the execution needs to be altered to complement our modern world. We need to place ourselves in our customers shoes to gain an understanding of how we are adding value and how we continue to deliver an excellent service. ‘Asking the question’ or ‘having the conversation’ is one of the best ways to gather intelligence. If you are aware of the expectations that are required then you can not only just meet them, you can devise strategies to exceed them.

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