Just because you do it differently, doesn’t mean it is wrong. As many of you know, I really enjoy spending time with kids. To me, they are so fascinating and it is their inquisical nature that I love the most. A few days ago, I was spending time with a friend’s, 7 year old daughter. We were at their house working on an art activity when her parents told her that she would need to eat lunch soon. Her dad said that he had taken a container of leftovers out of the refrigerator and requested that she eat it when she got hungry. She agreed and he walked out of the room to do other chores around the house.
Within 20 minutes, the 7 year old said to me, “I am hungry. I think I want a sandwich.” She darted to the kitchen to make herself a sandwich when I reminded her that her dad had asked her to eat the leftovers on the counter. She thanked me for reminding her and walked to the kitchen cabinet and pulled out a child size bowl and a metal spoon to dish out the leftovers so she could put them in the microwave. I personally am a big advocate of empowerment leadership and she knows my motto, “I won’t do anything for you that you can do yourself.” As she began scooping the leftovers into the bowl her dad walked into the kitchen and said, “No, no, no, you are doing this all wrong.” With a confused look on her face he grabbed the bowl and the spoon from her and took over.
She came and sat next to me on the bar stools in the kitchen as we watched her father do it the “right” way. He pulled a plate out of the cabinet and proceeded to pour the food from the bowl onto the plate. He did not increase the portion, simply changed what it was being served on; a plate vs a bowl. He then heated it in the microwave and asked, “Why would you choose this spoon?” with a disgusted expression on his face. Soon, the microwave bell rang and he gave her the food and walked out of the room again.
As I turned to look at her, I noticed her expression was sullen and deflated. I leaned over to her and quietly whispered, “Just because you did it differently, doesn’t mean it is wrong”. Suddenly, I saw a glimpse of a smile come back on her face and we quickly changed the subject while she ate her lunch.
I think this story is a great example of one of the biggest mistakes leaders make every day. We forget that just because someone does it differently than us, doesn’t mean it was done incorrectly. For most people, empowerment leadership is not an easy thing. In fact, it can feel downright painful. This is because as leaders we have to give up our control and allow someone less experienced than us to try it on their own. Giving others this opportunity is important because it teaches them to problem solve but it also gives them the confidence and reassurance when they are successful, to want to try again the next time. If they need guidance or don’t reach their goal then it can become a teaching moment for everyone and rather than feeling defeated, they can learn from it and try again.
If you are a leader that struggles giving up control and empowering others, I would love to chat with you. I want to help you lead through influence and empowering others. The more we inspire people to take risks the more we teach them in the long run.