Have you ever heard the term “at the coalface”?  I had not, so I took a quick trip to the Oxford Dictionary to find the connection of this phrase to leadership and more specifically “what good leaders do”.


coalfacedAt the coalface: “Engaged in work at an active rather than a theoretical level in a particular field”


This week, I am back to my series around Roy Osing’s article from The Globe and Mail on June 3, 2016 entitled “10 Things Smart Business People Do”.


Smart business people, Osing suggests, “Spend copious amounts of time with the front line; ‘on the coal face’ where customer meets company. Learning what’s really going on. Make meaningful change. They don’t have an ivory tower mentality.”


When I started my first job as a management trainee at the Royal Bank of Canada, the first position they had me train on was the teller’s wicket.  It became very clear to me that I had to understand how the business works from the front line first.


When my friend Paul took over ownership and management of a ski resort outside of Ottawa he spent the first 3 months on the front line.  He knew that the key to leadership was understanding what the front line is all about: what they do and how they do it.


Our friend John just sold his very successful trucking company.  He attributes much of his success with a regular ride in his trucks with his employees interfacing with the customers.


When you talk to the best leaders, they will tell you that they take time every month or quarter to visit the trenches, connect with the employees at all levels and experience the point where the customer meets the company.


This is leadership.


Spending Time on the Coalface is all about learning about the good and bad parts of the ‘engine’ of the business.   This is an opportunity to hear from people who work for you and with you and to connect with your customer.


And if you are in the coal mining business – you might just get dirty so be prepared. Dress appropriately.


Images courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

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