“Life hacks” refer to shortcuts, loopholes, and tricks which aren’t obvious but make life a bit easier. By extension “leadership hacks” are tactics or strategies which aren’t obvious but make leadership a bit easier.
I have recently discovered a leadership hack of my own. We used it at our monthly strategy meeting at IBEX.
There was a decision to be made about our next new hire. Should it be a new Goatbuzzster (marketing)? A new Herd Geek (IT)? Or a new member of the Includables (Inclusion support person)? In the past, we would have simply put this issue on the table and debated it. Instead, we did an exercise for an hour or so where we wrote down the strengths and weaknesses of IBEX first. Each member of the senior team discussed this with their team prior to the meeting allowing them both to understand and spell out their concerns about the company as a whole. In the end, once we saw the whole picture as a group, we all agreed that IBEX needs to increase its focus on the system itself, and as a result our new hire needs to be a Herd Geek. We felt it more important to improve our core system as opposed to adding customers faster or growing our support team. This option dealt with more of the weaknesses we saw than any other choice.
The hack here is using an exercise to get the discussion off the issue at hand and onto the bigger picture and letting that picture guide the decision. Had we started with the actual issue we could easily have gotten into turf wars, despite the great intentions of the leadership team at IBEX. Just as importantly, the senior leader (me) was practically hogtied from giving my opinion until the very end. My job was to facilitate the discussion. To do that I had to keep an open mind until it got down to the very end and everyone had been heard. How many times have I come into a meeting determined to push my agenda and opinion forward? Too many times to count!
As your level of responsibility increases in an organization, you will get more removed from the real action with customers and the front line employees. The “hack” here is to use simple exercises, like a good old SWOT analysis to make sure that your whole team has their say and that all of your team looks at this as a whole before you make the key decision. This will improve outcomes for your customers or supported individuals, it will increase buy in from your team, and it will make you a better leader.