The Six Essential Tools

By: Colton Shaw

The Six Essential Tools

By: Colton Shaw

When thinking about creating a business or improving our business we tend to think about the outward-facing things we could change and often overlook the internal changes. Consider this, most people own the basics of a tool belt whether that’s in your own or an apartment. This tool belt usually has a flashlight, hammer, power drill, level, measuring tape, and wrench. You might not use them every day, but behind the scenes, they are constantly providing you with a little more peace of mind and supporting you in the times you need it the most.

Now let’s get back to your organization. Your organization has its unique tool belt of essential tools that enable success in your business. These are often skills, ideas, or actual tools that you depend on. Not every organization is alike and there is no one size fits all, but we have worked to identify at least six of the essential tools that your organization needs to survive.

The Tools:

Tool 1: Adaptability
Tool 2: Technology
Tool 3: Integrity
Tool 4: Leadership
Tool 5: Development
Tool 6: Feedback

Tool 1: Adaptability

Adaptability is like the hammer of your toolbelt. Versatile with its functionality and usefulness changing in just about every situation.

Let’s take the year 2020 as a prime example. It’s been a devastating year for some companies and an incredible year for others. The differentiating factor appears to be the willingness to adapt to changing conditions in a sustainable manner. This doesn’t just mean the current conditions, but conditions to come. It’s important to ensure your organization can change course and remain successful.

Your ability to adapt can directly impact growth within your organization. Understanding when change is necessary and how you will change are two of the biggest factors that companies often forget. The key is to make sure you don’t just see the organization as what it currently is, but instead for what it could be. Think of all the ways you use a hammer outside of just hitting nails, likewise think of all the ways your organization can be used to impact your customers outside of what you see today.

Tool 2: Technology

Why is it that we know the obvious choice is power tools when we are picking between exerting our energy or spending a few extra dollars? Yet, if we change the words around a bit and are deciding between where to host our website, email provider, or anything centered around technology the first thing we look at is the price tag. We then think “there is no way we should be spending so many dollars on that!”. We think spending money to save time is worth it individually, but organizationally it’s a much harder sell. Why is that?

We believe that’s because organizations cannot directly tie the value of technology to hours effort saved within their organization. So, let’s look at three ways in which technology is truly a power tool in your business.

  1. Automation – Enabling your organization to do more with fewer resources. 
  2. Simplicity – Not overcomplicating your technology where it creates more problems than solves.
  3. Reach – Enabling your organization to reach greater audiences. 

We did a full write up on this tool here that expands on each of these points even further!

Tool 3: Integrity

Integrity is the trait that everyone thinks they have but very few actually do. As individuals, we hold businesses, especially non-profits, to extremely high standards of integrity. Integrity feels like the flashlight of your organizational tool belt. You don’t need it all the time, but boy when you do it shines a light into the dark spots of your organization. Integrity is what builds trust between your employees, audience, and other companies. 

We believe there are three key parts of integrity within your organization. They essentially work in concentric circles. Your smallest level is employees, then audience/customers, then other businesses. For you to be successful and continue to grow you must start from the inside and work your way out with integrity.

Level 1 – Your employees

As leaders of our organization, this is the level that is often neglected the most. For your business to truly thrive you must ensure that your employees are communicated with at the greatest level of integrity.

Level 2 – Your Audience/Customers

If your audience or customer base feels they have lost trust in you, it’s an uphill battle from there. You will constantly have to prove how trustworthy you are.

Level 3 – Other companies

The way your business acts publicly begins to make a name for itself. How do you want other organizations to think about you? This might seem trivial but one day you might need support from an outside source.

Tool 4: Leadership

What is the function of a wrench in your tool belt? It’s to tighten bolts to ensure the success of the whole home. Think of all the places within your home that a loose nut or bolt can cause havoc. You could have a leaky sink, unsafe furniture, even the foundation your house sits on has bolts in it. All of these things when done right continue to do their part, but from time to time you might need to tighten them to fix a small issue.

Think about this wrench like you as a leader. When you are doing your part right from the start, you begin to notice how things just begin to work. You don’t need to be called at 1 am to tighten a leaky faucet because you’ve set it up for success from the beginning. Leading your team the right way is your way of ensuring the organization continues standing when put to the test.

Three important concepts of every leader:

Lead with an open door

Create a culture where your employees feel comfortable walking into your office to bounce ideas off of you. A leader that can create a team that is not afraid to walk in the door is a team that can be unified around the vision of the organization

Lead from in front

The best leaders know they don’t have to do the heavy lifting but choose to jump in and help when necessary. Being a leader willing to lead on the front lines with the team creates a rapport within the organization that says “I am in this with you.”

Lead with consistency

Good days and bad days are inevitable. Be a leader that isn’t swayed by emotion. Eventually, your team will know how you would handle a given situation simply because you are consistent in your approach.

Tool 5: Development

Every organization struggles with the reality that if they are not consistently improving and developing they will slowly fall behind the market and the world around them. This doesn’t just mean your organization developing but the individuals within your organization too. Most companies fear investing and growing their employees because what if they outgrow your organization and find other places to work? A fear like that is what causes organizations to stand stagnant long enough for them to become obsolete. 

Your goal as a leader should be to see every person within your organization become better than they were the year before. This doesn’t translate to higher job output always but it simply means that the individual should be more confident, growing in their abilities, and continuing to provide more value to the organization.

Some tips for individual growth:

Bi-Annual training

Encourage your employees to learn something new or develop their skills at least twice a year. You should provide them all the tools to be successful in these ventures.

Provide your employee’s opportunities

If you see an employee express interest in another area of your business embrace that curiosity and see how they can make an impact there. Sometimes a small change can bring about tremendous value.

Trust your employees

This might sound simple, but sometimes all you need is a foundation of trust for your employees to feel confident in growing their skills. Knowing that if they fail they won’t be reprimanded but encouraged is a key asset that often goes forgotten.

The above tips might sound easy, but they so often get overlooked. It’s our goal as leaders to guide our organization and employees to grow to their fullest potential. Let’s encourage them to be 10% better than the year before!

Tool 6: Feedback

The measuring tape. The tool that seems to always be forgotten until you have made an issue. Have you ever made it too far into something before checking to see where you were? Maybe you meant to build that incredible thing and fell short by a foot because you measured too late in the game to make changes. Every person’s measuring tape knows this story.

Four parts of feedback:

1. Getting feedback at the right time

Understanding when to ask for feedback in your process is arguably the most important aspect of feedback. The right time to ask is aligned with when you’d use a measuring tape on a project. The planning stage, along with each step, and right at the end.

2. Giving Feedback

Giving feedback can be hard because we often want to insert our opinions or over/under-communicate. The best two tips on giving feedback are that your feedback should be actionable and concise

3. Receiving Feedback

Imagine using your measuring tape like receiving feedback. We love to eyeball our progress and just go by what we think is right but when you pull out the measuring tape and check yourself you cannot argue with the results. Time and time again the success of an individual or company can be linked to the ability to successfully receive feedback.

4. Making changes based on feedback

Feedback from any source else should be evaluated based on what that means for the overall goal. Sometimes this feedback, while great, does not align with the long term vision. Maybe it does, but it requires a huge time commitment that cannot be given right now.

Check out our full write up on feedback here!

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