Why You Need To Let The Blocks Fall Down Go Boom

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I think my friend Steve made a mistake.

Steve was a high school friend of mine. Unlike me, he chose to breed just a few years after high school. I remember visiting him when his first-born was maybe two or three years old. And because this was in the olden days, when iPads were not a toy option, his toddler was playing with blocks. Quite happily, in fact. He would try to stack the blocks and, because he was a toddler, the results would be disastrous. His edifice would fall down, he would laugh, and then he’d start re-building.

Like I said, he was quite happy.

Until Steve decided to show him the right way to do it (i.e., Steve’s way).

Mini-Steve quickly got bored and fussy, and started crying. At which point I suddenly remembered something important that I had to do elsewhere, miles away from Steve and his wailing infant.

What did Steve do wrong? He violated two cardinal leadership principles:

Principle 1: Nobody likes being micro-managed

My first television job was as a glorified secretary. (And by “glorified” I mean “not glorified.”) Mostly I would sit at my IBM Selectric and respond to viewer mail. Pretty easy, brainless work. But here’s the thing. My boss had a habit of standing right behind me, watching every stroke I typed. It seemed like every fifth word I wrote, he would say, “Uh….” (Even now, when I think of that long, drawn-out “Uh…,” I get a small shiver.) And then he’d offer his insight.

And look, I’ll be honest—sometimes his insight was good. But that didn’t matter to me. It was still irritating, it slowed me down, and it didn’t give me a chance to grow and develop on my own. Have you had a boss like that?

Nobody likes being micro-managed. Remember that when it comes to your team. Yes, you may think you have the answers, and that your way is the best way. And you know what? You might be right—occasionally. But when you micro-manage, you never allow your team to come up with their own solutions—solutions that may, in fact, be better than yours.

[Funny footnote: When I finally left the television business, I did so having won 29 Emmy Awards. My former boss—zero. But his “Uh…” still makes me shiver.] Nobody likes being micro-managed! #leadership #management Click To Tweet

Principle 2: People learn best from experience

Steve’s toddler was having the time of his life while learning what did and didn’t work in the complex world of stacking blocks. That is, until Steve stepped in and deprived his child of that experience.

We learn best when we get to try things for ourselves. You can read every book ever written on golf, but until you get out on the course and start swinging a club, you’re probably not going to win the Masters.

Your team is the same way. They learn best from experience. Whenever possible (and look, I know there are times when the job has to be done now), give them the space to learn from their mistakes. It might take longer in the short run, but you’ll make up for it down the line.

People learn best from experience. #leadership #management Click To Tweet

I’m not saying you should treat your team like toddlers. But I am saying that sometimes, it’s okay to let the blocks fall down.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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