Tradecraft is skill acquired through experience in a (typically clandestine) trade. Within the intelligence community this means the techniques used in modern espionage and generally, the activity of intelligence. This includes general topics or techniques (dead drops, for example), or the specific techniques of a nation or organization (the particular form of encryption used by the NSA, for example)
The term tradecraft in this sense is frequently used in the books of John le Carré and Tom Clancy, where characters frequently comment on others’ tradecraft (including those of agents from the opposing side).
The term was also used in the popular Oscar nominated historical drama film Zero Dark Thirty in which Osama Bin Laden’s hiding was described as “some real Tradecraft”.
In business maybe there is a tradecraft too, Covey suggest two ways to get better. First, seek feedback from those around you.
Second, learn from your mistakes. Confront Reality we cannot close our eyes to the tough realities we face. If we are honest about the difficult issues and are addressing them head-on people will trust us. We have to avoid the temptation to avoid reality or act as if we are addressing the difficult issues, while we are actually evading them.
Modeling patient satisfaction strategies after one of the greatest customer service standards in the world—the Ritz Carlton—new hire mentors explained the importance of service recovery—the act of salvaging a patient experience after something didn’t go as planned. The idea was simple—the fact that while a perfect patient experience was what we aimed to deliver, reality wasn’t quite so ideal….However, it was all about how we made up for these instances, we were told, that confirmed to the patient that we cared about them. And here’s the crazy thing. There are statistics in the restaurant and hotel business that show that one is likely to think more highly of the service of an establishment when things didn’t go perfectly but were recovered than if the experience was flawless to begin with. An imperfect experience is an opportunity to step up and tell someone “you are valuable enough to fix this.”
Le Carre created a glossary of Tradecraft phrases. “The ‘Circus’; not a big tent occupied by trapeze artists after all, but the highest echelon of the Secret Intelligence service: MI6. The name derives from its location in Cambridge Circus in London. Ferrets: technicians who do a fair bit of ferreting: locating and removing hidden microphones and cameras. Housekeepers: the auditors and financial guardians of the Circus.
Inquisitors: interrogators responsible for debriefing members of MI6 Janitors: the operations staff of the Circus.”
There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.
— Stephen Covey
Stephen Covey created seven habits his own tradecraft.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions (and how they align with life’s principles) are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Envision the ideal characteristics for each of your various roles and relationships in life. Create a mission statement.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Prioritize, plan, and execute your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluate whether your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you toward goals, and enrich the roles and relationships that were elaborated in Habit 2.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be understood
Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.
Habit 6: Synergize
Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes exercise for physical renewal, prayer (meditation, yoga, etc.) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to society for spiritual renewal.
Tradecraft is skill acquired through experience in a trade. Leadership is Tradecraft.