I grew up on a farm. We raised a variety of crops, had a fertilizer and seed business, and we raised hogs. For most of my growing up, our hog operation was pretty small, and feeding was done somewhat automatically. Feed was prepared every few days, and loaded into feeders which was gravity fed to the animals as they ate. While you didn’t want them to run out of food (we were trying to help them grow as fast as possible after all), it wasn’t an everyday task.
That changed in December of my senior year of high school when we put the first pigs into our new finishing barn. Soon, this barn continually housed 450 hogs, at various stages of growth. For a variety of reasons, there were no automatic feeders – which meant the hogs had to be fed twice a day, at about the same times, each day.
In winter, when there was less to do, this wasn’t too big of a deal – you had to get out of the warm house, make it through the snow, and feed, but there were not too many competing tasks. But during the busy seasons on a farm, it didn’t matter how busy you were, how far behind you were, or what other pressing on or off farm activities you faced.
You had to feed the hogs.
Twice a day, every day.
I’ve tried hard to never lose sight of this lesson, because it is critically important to all of us as leaders. We must be completely clear on the tasks that must be done, regardless of anything else. During some points of the year we had more urgent tasks; and you have urgent tasks too – fires to put out, Customers to respond to, and more. While there will always be the more urgent tasks, and perhaps more interesting and exciting tasks, as leaders, we must always remember those most important tasks – those critical to our overall success.
You’ve got to feed the hogs.
You likely don’t have hogs to feed, but you do have your equivalent – the tasks that maintain and grow your business, that support your team’s core mission, that, left to neglect, will have a serious detrimental effect on your results.
As a leader, you must know what your “hog feeding” tasks are, and you must help your team know where theirs are, too.
And then you must always do them.
On the farm, the hogs would get louder when hungry. It became hard to ignore. Unfortunately, we might not get these reminders. As the leader, that is your job – to remind, to lead by example, and, at all cost, make sure you are feeding your hogs.
Here are some questions to consider, based on this simple example
What are your business equivalents of “feeding the hogs?”
Are you and everyone on your team crystal clear on what these are?
How are you making sure that these most important things are done consistently, intentionally, and effectively?