7 Do’s and Don’ts for Getting the Most From the Smartest People in the Building

Isolated leaders are the dumbest people in the building.

A nameplate on the door and a title after your name doesn’t make you smarter than people with dirt under their fingernails.

Disconnected leaders – seduced by position and perks – don’t get it.



At lunch this week, a turnaround specialist explained that the answers for struggling organizations are typically found in front-line supervisors. This is especially true when internal issues are the reason for the struggle.

Front-line supervisors always understand day-to-day operations better than disconnected leaders.

7 do’s and don’ts:

  1. Don’t occasionally bring front-line supervisors to upper-management meetings.
  2. Do push information and authority to people who supervise work.
  3. Do become friends with front-line supervisors. Walk around in the trenches two or three times a week. (Every day wouldn’t be too often.)
  4. Don’t plug your ears to nagging complaints from someone in a blue shirt.
  5. Don’t rush to solutions or give quick answers.
  6. Do lean in and ask questions.
    • Why are we doing it that way?
    • What’s holding you back from moving this forward?
    • What assumptions got us into this mess?
    • How might we take an imperfect step forward? (In a turbulent world, all solutions are imperfect.)
    • What’s important about this? For greater clarity, add, ‘for you,’ ‘for your team,’ ‘for our customers,’ or ‘for our organization,’ at the end of the question.
    • What do you think?
    • How can I help?
    • Tell me more.
  7. Do make their lives easier. Clear the path. Remove obstacles to performance.

If you’re in top management or the C-Suite, the people with sweat on their brows know more about day-to-day operations than you.

How might organizations tap into the wisdom of front-line supervisors?