As leaders, we must know when to teach people how to fish, when to catch fish for others, and when to hire people to fish.
I ran into this as an issue recently and gained a few insights. First, the work our mentors and coaches do with executives is rare. There are skills involved that I take for granted sometimes. You may have this happen to you. You become so good at something that you forget others are unable to do what you do.
I remember my first business partner, Joel, who was the most amazing technical person I had met. It was challenging at times for him to see the gap between him and other developers and architects. He could do it in his sleep while fully engrossed in a dream, it seemed. Early in that business, a month’s worth of coding would be completed over a weekend at times. I suppose anyone with mastery can do the unimaginable to others who have yet to develop or have no interest in developing skills in a given area. NBA superstar, Stephen Curry, would be better off taking the shot rather than expecting someone like me to learn, practice, master and be ready to maybe take that shot. He is ready today, right now, just as Joel was with technology.
So, as leaders how do we know which approach is best: Teach, catch, or hire people to fish? There are several factors to consider:
Timeframe: Is there time to teach someone to fish before the expected result is required?
Interest: Does the person want to learn to fish?
Aptitude: Can the person develop the skills at the level needed for your organization?
Mentorship: Does someone have the time, willingness, skills, patience and process to support someone else in developing the required skills?
Budget: Is the organization willing to fund this investment and afford mistakes that invevitably come with the learning curve?
Return: What expectations on the people involved does the organization have for this investment?
Risk: What is the mitigation strategy for failure? I.e., Maybe we don’t get fish, but we have rice and beans as a backup. Or, maybe someone else is fishing alongside the one learning.
The issue that will arise is when one or more of these seven factors are assumed. I recently saw the potential in someone to become a master coach in our organization. I laid out a strategy for how this could come to pass and spent a great deal of time trying to convince this person of their potential. Up until this point, I had been fishing on their behalf while educating this person on what I was doing during our coaching sessions. When presenting the possibilities, she resisted. I bumped into “interest” or lack of interest as an issue. She wanted someone to coach her and didn’t have interest in learning to do it with others.
Look around at the people in your organization who are fishing for others, having others fish for them or may want to learn to fish.
Who are you expecting to learn to fish who may not have interest or aptitude?
Who has interest and aptitude, but the organization can’t tolerate the risk or doesn’t have the mentors/coaches or budget?
Where are you expecting someone to learn to fish, but the timeframe is unrealistic to be ready before your need?
As leaders, we need plans for our workforce to grow. These plans will cascade into daily goals in support of making sure employees are engaged, challenged, and contributing optimally. If you see a person is falling off, check your assumptions in the seven areas above. Any adjustments will then become obvious, and you can keep your teams in rhythm.
Plans and daily goals are part of one of the ten elements of effectiveness and well-being called Use of Will. The refinement of these elements contribute to awakening your optimal workforce.