Are You Developing Others…or Directing Others?

Whether it’s your kids, your partner, your coworkers or your direct reports, it often seems much easier to simply give them the “right” answer when you’re working on a problem or project together.

In the heat of the moment, when you’re short on time and have a need to get things moving, it may seem silly to wait on others if you already have the solution. Or is it?

Last month a friend and author, Paul Axtell, published a new book titled, Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids. At his invitation earlier in the fall, I read and reviewed a proof copy sent by his publisher.

As with anything we focus intently on, my review of his book heightened my ability to notice its ideas each day out in the world. This heightened awareness impacted me in an interesting and satisfying way one weekend in October.

A neighborhood mom and her two sons stopped by our house on a Saturday afternoon. While his mom stayed back a few steps with the younger brother, the older boy (dressed in a Cub Scout uniform) stepped up onto our porch. His name was Ryan and he asked me if I’d like to buy some popcorn for their troop fundraiser.

We have an important rule at our house which says we always buy at least one thing when neighborhood kids stop by to sell fundraiser goodies. So after deciding on a tin of chocolate covered popcorn, I began writing out a check.

When I realized I didn’t know who to write it to, I looked up and posed the question, “Who do I make the check out to?” I fully expected the mom to answer, but without hesitation, she turned to her son and said, “Ryan?” Ryan looked at me and said, “Pack 232.”

I finished writing, gave him the check and after we exchanged thank yous they headed up the street.

In thinking about our “sales transaction” later, I found myself feeling very impressed by Ryan’s mom. It would have been much easier and quicker for her to have answered my question, but she didn’t. In fact, she let Ryan handle the entire conversation.

By staying in the background, she gave her son the chance to grow in three important ways. He was able to:

  • Develop his conversation skills
  • Build his self confidence
  • Feel good about himself

These are powerful outcomes from a mom who chose to develop instead of direct!

“Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.” Samuel Johnson

Question: Who in your life could use more development and less direction?