Safe to say there are more ways than one. I know this is something that people say, but there are times when people insist their way is the only way. This is not to accuse anyone of being right or wrong. This is only to say that as we grow confident with our craft or move forward in our field of business, we become comfortable with our own tactics and methods. Also, the more we grow comfortable, the less offended we are by those who suggest a different way.
I can say one thing without any doubt, the most comfortable person on the job is the person who is least intimidated by suggestions or change. This is a great person to learn from. It’s not the boastful one or the bragger; it’s the quiet one who is humble to feedback and appreciative of suggestions. This is who we learn from.
I have met with master plumbers who are open to suggestions by first year apprentices. I have met with carpenters who were open to suggestions from people who were outside their scope of work because, put simply, suggestions are not meant to be insults and good ideas can come from anywhere.
For some reason, however, there is a fear of not having the right answer. There is a fear of “Not knowing,” or not being competent yet, none of this is personal. None of this is a reflection of character. In fact, humility is an amazing characteristic. People would rather work with someone who listens instead of dictates. No one likes a know-it-all, especially when the know-it-all is frequently wrong.
Now, before I go forward, I would like to admit my intimidations. I am somewhat older and though I manage, I often find myself intimidated by new technology — I am only half-kidding when I laugh about not understanding my cell phone and wishing my teenage daughter was around to teach me how to use it.
I have heard from younger colleagues who tell me about some of the different features on their phones. I hear this and shake my head because most of this is foreign to me.
In fact, here’s a laugh:
My youngest child was somewhere around the age of five or six. I was excited about my new car. The car itself was nothing spectacular. However the somewhat smaller crossover vehicle had backseats that reclined independently. I wasn’t sure how to do this. I avoided the topic because I knew I didn’t have the answer. Maybe I was intimidated because I knew the answer was simple. Maybe I “Felt stupid.” Perhaps I might have been snippy when asked about this — then I noticed my daughter reclining in the backseat shortly after. I asked, “How did you do that?” and my daughter looked at me with this face as if to say, “Duh,” and remarked, “You just had to pull the lever, Daddy.”
Oh, how quickly I was humbled.
(For the record, her uncle had a similar backseat which was how she knew.)
For some reason, we take “Not knowing” as a sign of ineptness or weakness. We see this as a flaw when really, this is a moment to become teachable.
I have worked with younger supervisors who managed older workers and this was interesting. I have seen both sides try to prove themselves. I have watched people allow others to fail; as if to sabotage a job without sabotaging anything. Instead, they sabotage with silence for no other reason than to be spiteful or dominant. At the same time, I have listened to experienced workers learn to comfortably manage up to their supervisors.
I have heard bosses say, “Anything you think of is something I’ve already thought, so don’t even try it unless I tell you to!”
And what does this say?
Is this helpful?
We live in an ever changing world. Of course, there are things that only work in certain ways. There is only one direction to spin a pipe to screw it in—unless the pipe threads are reversed, in which case; there’s still only one way. Nuts and bolts screw in the way they screw in. Paint dries. Nails go into wood and screws turn the way screws turn but plans and strategies are always evolving. This means “Be teachable.”
The world has evolved and the reason why is that we constantly update our thinking. Consider this, in my childhood years, the ideas of cell phones or face-time applications were thought to be space-age fantasy. There was no internet. There were no handheld devices. But as technology improved, we updated our services. We updated our abilities and our thinking because we learned that things which used to be impossible are actually possible.
There was a saying a teacher taught me when I was very young. She told me, “Everything is impossible until it’s done.”
I’m pretty sure this was not something I could understand at the time. But understood or not, this is something that I remembered.
I have been part of recovery programs where the facilitators were unhappy with anyone who offered a different pathway. I was part of this and told to stay in my lane, which I understood. I was told who the professional was and the specialist was, which was me. I was the specialist.
I was a specialist in an operation that helped people after an arrest and put them into a recovery program instead of going back on the street to buy more heroin. There were too many cooks in the kitchen on this one. There were too many bosses and not enough workers.
My job was to get a person to commit to treatment. Upon the person’s agreement, I was to step aside for the clinicians who were not too friendly. They were “The professionals,” and me, I was just a specialist. But without me, the wheel didn’t turn. With them, the wheel couldn’t spin, which means we were both necessary.
I have seen people fight to show their validity and to justify their job; all the while, at no point did they realize how this exposes their insecurity. I have seen this behavior in myself, which is why I write this—so that I improve and quit making the same mistakes. I also write this to prove one important fact. I am human. I am a real person. Just like you or anyone else. I can come up with new ideas and so can you. This is not a threat. This is only helpful.
I’ve met bosses who were afraid to lose their jobs. In fact, I’m sure we all have. But more than this, I have met leaders who listened to their teams and allowed their experience to help mold a stronger sense of team efficiency. People like this are not intimidated by suggestions. In fact, they welcome them. In which case, I don’t ever want to be a boss. I’d be a leader and if I’m ever going to be a leader then let me be the kind who builds a team so strong that no one can point out the leader.