Imagine you are at the helm of a huge ship moving forward at high speed.  You’re the driver, you control the direction of this ship. Now, how is it possible for a single, small person to change the course of something so massive?

To change the ship’s course, you move a steering wheel that operates a rudder, which then turns the ship. But the rudder itself can be enormous, perhaps even ten stories tall on some ocean liners. So what moves the rudder?

A tiny second rudder called a trim tab, which is attached to the big rudder.

Through the marvels of engineering, when the trim tab swings to one side, it creates just enough vacuum to pull the big rudder around. The trim tab is tiny compared to the size and weight of the ship, yet it is the trim tab that determines the ship’s course.

Stephen R. Covey

Pretty cool, no?

Here’s a way to simulate the trim tab; you don’t need anything but your arm.

Extend your arm, with your hand extended straight out, palm facing sideways, fingers together, pointing straight out.

Your arm is the rudder, and your hand is the trim tab.

Now flex your wrist while keeping your arm straight, so that your palm starts to angle towards you.  Imagine the force of the water hitting the palm of your hand; imagine that force pushing your arm in the opposite direction of your flexed hand… and the ship turns.

*   *   *   *   *

I fancy myself as an organizational trim tab.

I leave it to others to determine where the ship should go.  I really only try and understand strategy; I don’t try and influence it.

I leave it to others to make the call on when the ship should turn.  I may help managers facilitate problem solving and decision making, and I occasionally provide input and opinion, but I generally don’t play in making the decision.

And I leave it to others to operate that steering wheel.  I try very hard to let leaders lead, and managers manage.

I’m a very small part, but I’m usually in a very precise place in the organization.

Small moves, big impacts.  I enable by influencing leaders.  Leaders turn the ship.

I am the trim tab.