The Toolbox Analogy


Many readers will be familiar with the concept of the toolbox; that accumulation of experience, strategies, methods and ideas that can be drawn on to resolve issues using tried and true practices. For those new to this idea, and it’s been around for a long time, the toolbox is only an image created in our mind rather than an actual physical toolbox. The beauty of it of course is that it is weightless, highly portable, ready to use at a moments notice, and has an infinite capacity to carry as much as you like!

The downside to the toolbox analogy as I see it is twofold; the toolbox isn’t always in front of us visually thereby reminding us to use it, and secondly, tools need regular maintenance if they are to remain useful. Do you use all the tools in your toolbox in order to stay acquainted with them, and do you use the right tools for the job?

The longer your length of service in an organization, the more positions you have held, the greater the years of experience in the job you currently perform, all contribute to determining how large your toolbox is. For example, someone who routinely deals with conflict resolution will know there are a number of different methods to arriving at a resolution including but not limited to compromise, dialogue and mediation. A new employee, fresh from school who experiences mediation early and realizes it’s benefits, will come to mentally file away that process, how it was introduced to the parties involved, the language used, the reaction of the parties, the success of the method and when it is or isn’t to be the first choice in resolving conflict. The more seasoned veteran knows that mediation is not the one-size-fits-all remedy to conflict, and can draw upon many different strategies and methods to bring about resolution with the same goal of moving forward when the process is complete. Experience will teach this expert as to which strategy might yield the best results in a given situation.

The important thing for any workman to know is that when a tool is pulled out, it can be reliably used by the workman – he or she has the skill to use the tool, the tool is the right tool for the job, and the tool has been kept in good repair. In order to keep your tools in good repair, make sure you know your tools in the first place; do an inventory. Any tool that you haven’t used in a very long time needs to either be tossed as it’s obsolete, or it needs to be used in order for you to have confidence in using it when you need it most!

You will find for example that some people find that being very formal with new clients is how they begin. Every now and then though, they might be more casual, or introduce humour as appropriate. Even if being formal is your preferred style, lightening things up with some tasteful humour is a good tool to have as many people respond to this. It doesn’t mean you find everything funny and use humour frequently, but rather you have the confidence TO use it if it will help your objective, and the confidence from recent use to pull it out of your toolbox when you need to.

No matter your job, your attempt to land a job, or your position within an organization, everyone brings a toolbox to the table. Re-visit your toolbox. You’ll be glad you did. What’s in your toolbox?

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