Wednesday, August 31, 2011

That Didn't Work Out

Photo by Sally Cummings
My wife and I recently sent our daughter off to her second year of college...and her first year living in on her own in an apartment. She texted yesterday to tell me she was baking macaroons for the student group she leads. She wanted to know how I thought they would taste dipped in caramel.

Now, I love macaroons and have been known to bake a few myself. I love them plain and I love them dipped in chocolate. But I've never had them dipped in caramel. I've never even thought to try them in caramel. This is something I respect about our daughter - she's creative and will try all sorts of things I wouldn't dream of - as long as I don't screw it up.

Many leaders and managers, in their desire to be helpful (or show off their vast knowledge) give quick answers when team members ponder "what ifs". When we act as if we must have all the answers, we prevent natural learning from taking place. Real learning grasps the essential elements, it understands "what happens if". It makes new connections, finds new solutions, and creates new visions. Be careful not to squelch creativity and risk-taking by trying to help when exploration is needed.

I got lucky this time and did not rush in with my own opinion about caramel-dipped macaroons. Later that night, I asked how she liked them. "That didn't work out - I prefer them simple."

Nothing I could have said would be as poignant or as lasting. (But I still want to try one!)

David M. Dye

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Twitter: @davidmdye
David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

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