A little moment today with my son helped me rethink our work with teachers and students. Random Saturday morning. I really should be thinking about anything else after a long week. Does anyone else have these random leadership thoughts that come out of the middle of nowhere?
We stopped to get gas and he asked to get out and help pump the gas. This was a little thing, and really wasn’t that big of a deal to me, but for him this was such a cool experience. He felt empowered and special. It took longer of course to pump the gas, explain to him what to do, and make sure he was safe, but in the long run those seconds that I lost were really precious experiences that he gained. Pumping the gas also gave us a chance to talk about decimals, multiplication, and money.
The thought that consumed my day was that as leaders we need to rethink all of these little moments and how much we can give away to help others grow. I feel like I’m in such a hurry all the time, trying to tick everything off my to-do list. I can’t afford to ‘waste’ time, so I end up doing too much and not letting others have time to lead or create. All it ends up doing is making me feel overwhelmed and exhausted. But the more I do, the less others do. And the ‘doing’ is where learning and growth occurs. Of course, leaders have to work and get things done, but we need to be mindful of what experiences we can give away and when it makes sense to help others lead, do, create, and therefore empower. I use the term “leadertunities” with my staff to help explain how simple or even complex tasks can be theirs for the taking if they choose to lead. Anyone can be a leader by finding things to do that will help others or the good of the organization.
It’s a tough balance. Give too much away and your staff will feel like you don’t want to do any of the work. In fact many times, people don’t want to take on more tasks and in many cases rightly so. Do too much yourself and your staff will feel like you don’t trust them. You also can’t do it all and you shouldn’t have to. Leaders really limit themselves when they think they have to do it all.
No one ever said leadership was easy. One way to balance your workload and how you grow the skills of your team is to reconsider these little moments and small authentic tasks. Slow down as leaders and help empower others. Trust them to be successful and support them so that they are. Give them tasks that have meaning, but don’t give away tasks just so you don’t have to do them. Your staff should be better and more skilled based on your leadership. Positive relationships grow from these successes. Not only does your staff need to have positive connections with you, but you need those connections to build your own spirits and morale as well.