The Long Handled Screwdriver is the contemporary military manifestation of an age-old, feared ‘leadership’ trait.
The label arises from recent Western interventions. These military campaigns can be prone for people with little to zero allied knowledge or experience to get involved in quite a detailed level on the tactical front.
This issue has grown due to people sitting at desks in cosy faraway offices now watching live video of what’s happening at the battlefront. When they then push the buttons themselves, effectiveness shrinks despite their ego ballooning.
So it was with palpable relief that when the Americans dropped their largest ever non-nuke on a terrorist Afghan cave network, it appeared the President was not involved. The commanders, we learned, had the authorisation to do as they saw right to meet the overall objectives. Without recourse to constantly check back with mummy.
I found fascinating insight to this kind of worry on a British army forum;
“This is the domain of the ‘long handled screwdriver’; the ability of the senior commander, or perhaps more worryingly the government minister, to closely monitor and direct low-level activities in a faraway theatre from his desk in his capital city. In part this issue arises because ‘he can’. Not only does modern IT allow it, but the relatively low level of activity in PSO (Peace Support Operations) (compared with war) gives him a relatively limited range of incidents to get involved with at any one time. Therefore he can involve himself with the one roadblock, the one shooting, the one targeting decision that is happening when his attention falls that way. When conflict becomes more intense his ability to get involved in all such incidents decreases…”
So today it is considered greater success comes with the more discretion people at the sharp-end have to do as they see fit. In combat as it is in Sales.
We’re working a bid. Our heart and soul completely devoured by it. Then a high-ranking officer flies in. Or more accurately, wires in. Via message; do-this do-that. Now.
Too often the quota-owner has to make a plan. Do what they’re told. Quick march.
It hardly ever ends well.
The winning salespeople avoid anything remotely like this malaise. Any tool stays well and truly in the box until they alone open it up and get it out.
Whilst there clearly can be a delicate balance required between what say a cautious elected official and gung-ho general may wish to do, any singular ‘decisive’ action without a plan is likely to be a disaster. There’s a raft of examples littering humanity lately here.
And so to your deal. If you feel the long handled screwdriver is being used on you, simply knowing that once-off, glory-poaching, random micromanagement is a recipe for failure isn’t enough. The surest way to fend off any unwanted diktat from on high is to know your process. Be able to (refine and) stick to it. And demonstrate it’s on the right track.