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Leadership: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Before our daughter was born, I spent several years making furniture as a hobby. I would typically build one project a year: an armoire, a headboard, a cabinet, etc. I learned a lot about woodworking doing those projects, and also at least one vital lesson about leadership.

The way I got into woodworking was through a local community college.  A friend of mine told me about a night class he took each fall that really only consisted of having access to a local high school’s very nice woodworking shop, and a shop teacher who acted as your professor mainly through helping you with your own projects.

I learned a great deal from the shop teacher, and my family ended up with some nice furniture.

Unfortunately, one of the important lessons I learned from the shop teacher, I learned the hard way.  And it wasn’t on an amateur piece of furniture I was building. It was on a beautiful executive desk I already owned.

“Measure Twice, Cut Once” means that before a woodworker turns the saw on, before he releases the safety and engages the cutting teeth, he double checks where that cut is going to be and if it is, indeed, going to produce the right outcome.  It is vital that he double checks before he cuts into that expensive piece of hardwood that is going into his latest furniture creation.

Or, in my case, use a 2-inch hole saw to drill into the top of my executive desk for a computer cable to go through. While the hole looked right from the top, if I had measured twice, I would have seen that the leg supporting that corner of the desk had an offset metal  mounting bracket, which I ran into when I tried to cut from the top to the bottom. I still use the desk today, and I’ve still got an ugly, partially cut 2-inch hole showing up where I didn’t practice the “measure twice, cut once” principle.  It is a an eyesore on an otherwise beautiful desk. And it is a constant reminder to me of the “measure-twice-cut-once” principle.

Fellow leader: how does this apply to our leadership? If we are in significant positions of leadership, to some extent, what we say, goes.  Therefore, we should be careful what we say!  Let’s make sure we aren’t spouting off about things we haven’t fully thought through. Far too many initiatives are doomed to failure because they were launched too soon. When maybe they shouldn’t have been launched at all.

My dad used to say, “it is better to be silent and thought a fool, than to speak and be known as one.”  Leaders – let’s think a little more carefully – “measure twice, cut once” – before we speak so that our words are better for our teams.