I like to fix things. I’m pretty good at it. I’m not a qualified auto mechanic or electrician by any stretch, but if you need your new TV setup or your phone reconnected or your files moved to the cloud, I’m a good guy to ask.
I like being good at fixing these small things because they are appreciated and they give my ego a nice dose of self-satisfaction. Also, they let me maintain a sense of control over my surroundings.
Over the last few years I’ve discovered that my daughter likes to fix things, also. She’s really good at it. Especially in the technical domain she’s a much better problem solver than me.
I don’t admit that easily (see, “maintain a sense of control” above) because for the longest time I wasn’t willing, when she said “I know what to do,” to get out of the way and let her do it. Instead, we would jockey for position and I would finally snap at her to just let me figure it out.
I still do that once in a while but not nearly as much. I’ve learned that her development depends on the ability to express and use her gifts and that my job is to give her the space to do that.
Instead of seeking that ego boost for these small achievements I enjoy watching her proudly play this role in support of her family and friends. I also enjoy the new reality that whatever needs to be done doesn’t have to be done by me.
It seems to me that this is what great leaders do, too. They learn to stop clinging to any pretense of self sufficiency, to not just admit that they need help, but to relish in the opportunity to give others the chance to be helpful.
That’s a pretty great thing to be able to do for someone. It builds esteem, confidence and connection. It creates teams of problem solvers who learn to rely on one another’s unique abilities to get things done.
Perhaps most importantly, it creates the widest possible feeling of ownership for whatever we have agreed to create together.
In your workplace today, is there someone you can do this for? Is there someone doing this for you?