Not Every Nail Needs a Hammer

By Andrew Marotta

A few weeks ago, I had my first experience of taking up old wooden boards on the deck of our house and replacing them with trex boards #Finally. Well, I’ve never done this before, but how hard could it be right? Pick the board up, cut the new trex board, and put it down. Working collaboratively with my in-laws and my family, we got a pretty good routine down and the new trex wound up looking great!


The inspiration for this blog came from the old nails in the wooden boards. While each board was uniform in size and all lined up perfectly when they were on the deck, taking them up and the situation with the nails was quite different. Each board’s state and strength was a little different. Some were softer and popped right up, others were very firm and we had to try multiple ways to get the board up. Some nails remained deep in the board, while in others, the board pulled up through the nails and they remained underneath on the cross rafters. Some of the nail heads popped off and hit us in the face while others fell easily from the board almost disintegrating right in front of us.


There were so many different situations that we encountered and I explained and tried to model for the kids, that depending on the situation we were facing, there was a different type of tool that they should use. We had a variety to choose from too. Hammers, nail pullers, crowbars, and my favorite, the wonder bar. I caught the kids a few times just wailing away with the hammer or straight up just pulling on it grunting aggressively. We talked about leverage, angles, and force. After a while they got it. They figured it out, how and when to use which tool for which individual situation.


This is the same in our work and the best leaders have a variety of tools and know when to use them. Not every nail needs a hammer. It’s the same with our people in our programs. Read the situations and pick the right tool. You also have to have some wiggle room and what my brother likes to call the “try method.” He’s a chemist for Estee Lauder and used that phrase with me when he was a guest on my podcast. He said we use the “try method.” I thought he was going to share some deep chemical formula but he simply said we try this and we try that until they figure it out. We have to do the same when reading the situations we are faced with, take some pause time, and then again thinking and trying when selecting the best tool. Keep adding to your toolbox and learning new styles and techniques. I have found during this time of Covid, people’s limitations are exposed and without a variety of tools, they become greatly frustrated.


As you move forward in your leadership journey remember not every nail needs a hammer. Take your time in reading the situation, think about it, take a look at it from a different angle, then select the right tool. You know how to use it! #SurviveThrive #KeepRolling

Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewmarotta21, Insta, FB, & Linkedin


Andrew is the passionate & energetic Principal at Port Jervis HS Port Jervis, NY. His enthusiasm is contagious whether it is the halls of the school or at one of his motivational workshops.


He is the author of “The Principal: Surviving & Thriving” and a new author with #edumatch. We’re excited about his latest book, “The Partnership: Surviving & Thriving” helping bring schools and parents closer together by best supporting students.


Learn more about Andrew and his work at https://andrewmarotta.com/. Sign up for his weekly #ELBlog and tune in to his podcast: Education Leadership & Beyond. Secure him for your next keynote, admin retreat, or professional development. #survivethrive




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