…a great and strong wind rent the mountains, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. — 1 Kings 19:11
Sheltered in a cave on Mt. Horab, the prophet Elijah was in fear for his life and distraught over what he perceived as the failure of his efforts to keep the Israelites faithful to the Covenant. In his lowest moment, Elijah moved to the mouth of the cave to encounter the Lord. Presented with a multitude of natural disasters, events that would surely accompany the arrival of the Almighty, Elijah was no doubt surprised that the Lord arrived instead as a still small voice.
As leaders, our resiliency can be challenged during demanding times, especially as the performance of our teams begins to suffer. As the metrics start trending negatively, we may be driven to seek performance gains in the form of new initiatives. Initiatives which our teams know all too well as the “flavor of the month”. But the gains that we seek may not always be found there. They may lie instead in the smallest of efforts. And a number of small, meaningful improvements can often generate some forward progress as the efficiency and morale of a team is positively transformed.
However, to spot these improvement opportunities, you must be fully engaged with your team. You must truly understand the capabilities and constraints of your team. You must be open to the various sources of feedback within and surrounding your team. Gains may be readily attainable in simply rearranging a work area, refining a core process, temporarily realigning a project team, repairing a poorly functioning piece of equipment. You name it. And I guarantee that your team members have a number of these types of ideas ready to explore. Ultimately, you will have to calculate the feasibility and practicality of those ideas, but be open to a little honest consideration.
So clear a few time slots in your calendar and spend some time with your team members in action. Get a solid feel for the environments in which they conduct their daily missions. Talk with them, listening especially for those minor annoyances encumbering their efforts. A host of small improvements are just waiting to be birthed from these conversations.