I am the StepMother to two children, aged 19 and 12. I love my job as StepMom or S’Mom as they sometimes refer to me. The 19 year old is away at College and the 12 year old lives with us almost half time. Their Father, my husband was away for work and the 12 year old and I were talking about her day over dinner. I asked her what she had for lunch and she said ‘ooohh it was good’ and went on to share what made it good, part of it was that her Mother had made her lunch and that was treat because like many 12 year olds, she usually does that task herself. And then I asked her, ‘why do you think your Mom makes better lunches than you?’ She said – ‘well, she knows where all the food is.’ I laughed. But it was absolutely true, and is true at our home too.
I thought about the fact that she could be prevented from making a great a lunch because she doesn’t know where we put all the food. And then I thought about how that rings true in our work life. How often do we hear someone say ‘I didn’t know that’ or ‘No one told me’ when confronted with a job they did not do as well as someone else or as per the expectation. I say it myself when I do something based on what I know at the time. Our 12 year old is smart enough to know there is more food somewhere, but is equally content to operate off what she does know and make her lunch. If we told her where everything was would she make different lunches?
Often times in our work life we stop asking questions and assume that what we know, is all there is to know or we become content operating with what we have in front of us. A result that can affect productivity and innovation. Why aren’t people asking more questions? Why don’t we take the time to really orient someone to a new position? Why do we assume they will just figure it out for themselves? And if that is what we assume, how will they know when they know all there is to know? (Bet you had to read that more than once.)
As a Leader it is your job to make sure your team knows what they need to know, or at least, help them understand it is up to them to discover, ask and create. And that it is okay that they discover, ask and create. Some organizations talk about innovation and go getters or ambitious people and even hire them for those very qualities, but then castrate their efforts because it results in change or letting go of certain methods and rules. So they want it, sort of, but not really, or only in parts. And that usually results in the go-getters going away.
I can admit that I hide chocolate and cheezies. I also admit that I may be cautious about the kind of lunch a 12 year old would make if they knew where all the food really was, but would it help them make a better lunch? Who determines what good is? How would they know what is and is not acceptable for lunch unless we told them? Would they know to ask? Would they just figure it out as they go and assume that chocolate, cheezies and a juice box equate to a good lunch? Would they know the impact of not having proper nutrition on their learning ability?
As a Leader, we need to focus on what our teams need measured against our company goals, not what our comfort level is – we must understand that they may need more information to do the job we asked or they may need some gentle boundaries to perform at your expected level. What’s the harm in letting them figure it out on their own? Truthfully, casualties of learning only result negatively if you are not comfortable with their learning curve or their attempts to get it right. Another consideration is if you have time for them to figure it out.
How are you setting your team up for success? Do they know what they need to know? Do they discover, ask and create? Are they confident enough to try, fail, and try again? Are they content? Are you content? Who is hiding the chocolate and cheezies? What are you going to do about it? How are you going to encourage them to let loose while providing left and right of arc direction?
It is easy to see how we neglect providing information because people, in general, are busy. It may not be intentional, but it could be impactful. Do you have a new employee program? Do you have weekly staff meetings or similar? Do you share news of your industry, company goals and potential changes with the team? Do you include your team in conversations about the mission and vision of your company? Do you hide certain things because you like to manage their consumption? Do you hide certain things because you want to control the outcome? Do you share certain things so they will only focus on them?
The information you choose or choose not to share may be affecting the possibility of great things. How important is it to have control over your chocolate and your cheezies? How important is it to foster great lunches? How important is it to make sure your team knows where all the food is?
For those of you outside of Canada wondering what a cheezie is, click here for more information http://www.cheezies.com/index3.htm