Fixing Things

Gerwig 2014-02-03

Are you handy? Can you fix things? Some of you have great skill with your hands. You love going into Lowes or Office Depot. You can work with wood, metal, glass, and the like. You can create works of art. You can build pieces of furniture. You can repair motors.

Some of you even take it a step further. You build houses, bridges, or airplanes. There are people in this world, and you may be one of them, who are truly gifted with their hands. I’m amazed when I look at the things mankind has made, created, built, or repaired. The pyramids in Egypt. The Great Wall in China. The Hoover Dam. The Eiffel Tower. Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Michelangelo’s David. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.…I could go on and on, but you get the idea. No doubt you have your own list of things that amaze you. Things that you appreciate. Things that amaze you. Things that admire.

In a different (yet similar) way, I’m also amazed by regular mechanics who fix my car, weed eater (or weed wacker depending upon your geography!) or my air-conditioning unit. These men and women know how to use tools to fix things. They are skilled with tools. They repair the lawnmower you use to cut the grass, the airplane you fly, and the washing machine you use to wash your clothes.

I’ve never been great with tools. I’m ok, but definitely not great. I’m a reluctant repairman. Yes, I’ve done some basic repairs around the house, changed the oil in my car, replaced the sparkplug in my lawnmower and set the gap, but I’m not a skilled mechanic. Yes, I’ve built (or created) a few things, wooden chess set, a hope chest (mostly my dad built it and I helped) and a picnic table with benches. But I’d never categorize myself as “handy.”

What does any of this have to do with leadership, the topic about which I write a weekly article? Well, I’m glad you asked. You see, world-class leaders are frequently presented with problems. Sometimes you can overlook these problems or delegate them to others. Yet there are times when you must personally fix the problem. Sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves, get out your tools out and fix things.

Leaders need to think strategically and cast a strong vision for their organization. But leaders also have to be able to deal with the tactical, the down and dirty. You have to deal with the dysfunctional team, the upset employee, the arrogant Sales VP, or the underperforming R&D executive. You have to get out your tools and fix the performance gaps and working relationships within your team. You have to balance many things. You have to balance the short and long term. You have to balance employee and customer expectations. You have to balance associate pay with market competitiveness.

Whether you’re a leader at home, in the office, in the boardroom, on the playing field or in the classroom, you have problems. People bring you problems on a regular basis. Some problems are internal. Some problems are external. Some problems bridge the two (e.g. contractors). You can’t solve all problems, nor should you. Some problems you can ignore. Some problems you can delegate to others. Yet there are some problems that only you, the world-class leader, can solve. You need to roll up your sleeves, get out your tools, and fix things.

You may not be a Michelangelo, a Leonardo da Vinci, or a Vincent van Gogh, but, to be a world-class leader, you must be able to fix things. You must hone your “fixing things” skills. It’s not always glamorous or fun, but it’s part of the job. Whether you’re a parent, a manufacturing executive, an account representative, or a national politician, there are times when you must set aside the strategic for the tactical. There are times when you must personally get involved in repairing a relationship, coaching someone, terminating an employee, or building a team.

Are you good with tools? Do you like to fix things? What broken things do you fix in the kitchen, boardroom, office, or classroom? What examples of “fixing things” can your share?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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