A New Lens for Foundational Leadership

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Beware of the way things have always been done, they can hide a great deal of creativity.

Working with law enforcement I was enthralled when a civilian who works for a Sheriff’s Office referred to the deputy level of the organization as “The foundation” rather than the traditional “subordinate” nomenclature often used to describe this entry-level. I really fell in love with that. It gives a whole new meaning to foundational leadership.

This group of employees, those on the front lines, or in other industries, those that work on the factory floor, that clean the bathrooms, that fix the computers, that keep the doors open — they are the foundation of the company, they are the ones who actually make the organization run. Upper management may be directing them, but those on the ground are actually doing the grunt work.

Doesn’t it change the imagery, emotion, feeling around leadership, when we think about the people who are at the bottom of your organization as your foundation? It matters to have a strong foundation – in a house or in an organization.

No matter what you are leading, too many leaders look at that level of the organization as expendable. They make the lowest pay, they are the highest numbers, they often have the highest turnover and we tend to think of their skills as lower level and replaceable. But Foundational? And yet they absolutely are the foundation. They are likely the most public-facing and doing most of the hands-on work. And the only way to build that foundation is to open yourself up to trust and insight. That trust manifests in hiring staff, even in the lower levels, that you would stand behind, and who you want to stay with your company for as long as possible.

Caring for those at the very bottom of your organization shows you actually care about your company. Taking care of your janitor shows you actually appreciate every contribution as well as having a clean office. The old saying goes; “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” When you make that largest level as foundational, and recognize that it is upon their backs you build this organization, it shows everyone that you care more about people than profit, and the more they see you care, the more they will care as well, the more they will engage and the higher your profit, production, and engagement.

It isn’t hard to find a business owner that takes great care of their capital. They make sure all their buildings are kept perfectly clean, paint updated, yards landscaped. Vehicle fleets are given incredible care, with trucks being brought into the shop every few hundred miles just in case. As a HUMAN Strategist™ it is my mission that organizations apply that same level of attention to their human capital as well.