The idea of developing people is a profoundly appealing desire. No matter the background, people like the opportunity to share what they know with someone else. We get immense value from being a resource, some help, an information leader to those around us. We do. And yes, we don’t always feel like being this or doing it, but in the grand scheme of it all, we like it.
A few years ago, Steve Farber wrote an article for Inc where he shared ideas about improving your life by giving things away. Sounds reasonable. I mean, do I really need to take that unopened electric skillet with me on another move? But Steve did not only focus on stuff, but the intangibles as well.
It's perfectly natural to worry about your turf, your ideas, and your position in the world. Of course, you don't want to give away all your successful techniques and habits. But if you do, you will find that you have gained, not lost, in the exchange.
Notice that he zeroed in on “want.” You may not want to give away those secret sauce tricks, but by doing so, you’ve increased the opportunity for others to succeed. You’ve, also, increased the innovation curve. Building upon the strides you’ve made is a business imperative. Think about the history of your techniques. Were they 100% original? Not likely. They were built upon someone else’s efforts, expanded upon and developed further. That’s a good thing. Now, let someone else do the same with what you’ve done.
If we’re serious about developing others, then we must accept giving things away. And at the heart of it all is an understanding that I don’t need to own it all. It’s all been a gift to me and it’s my joy to hand it off to the next crop of curious minds. Can you get behind that philosophy?
Some of you have been burned. Yes, it’s true. Either you’ve tried to give away what you know, and it’s been rejected by the audience you had. I’m sorry for that, truly. It’s a shot to the esteem to have what ought to be willing recipients turn out to be critical doubters. The call to action, however, ought not to be forgotten; it’s just that you had the wrong people to develop. They didn’t want it, fine…now find those that do. They’re there. Look for them.
On the other hand, some of those burned may have suffered by systematic changes. What you’ve done is obsolete. Technology or process improvement may be occurring at the same time you’re ready to give away what you know. And now what you know isn’t so great. May I say that’s not true. The advancements have come off the back of the truths you’ve been living and performing. Let not the history of evolution in work be lost. Your connection to the story is incredibly important to the development of others. They need to know that where you start may not be where you end up – as a process, as a procedure or as a person.
McFarland, USA, tells the story of a coach who didn’t want to invest in the role that he had with the students he had in the location he was working. He was unhappy. But when he caught a glimpse of the talent to be developed, his willingness changed. He got involved, very involved. His passion then motivated the students who took what he taught them and exceeded his expectations. That’s the beauty of developing others. It’s often better than you could envision. You just have to be willing to do it.