Be the Passenger

Years ago I read, All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. Maybe you’ve read it. If you haven’t, you might. I was reminded of its value recently. Through a series of short essays, he walks you through some “lessons” like: share everything, play fair, put things back where you found them and clean up your own mess. While we have learned them, as we grow up we sometimes think they don’t apply anymore. I think they do.

I have a problem I’m hoping to work on. I love people. I love efficiency and I love when the two work together to make what we do better. So what’s my problem? I do too much instead of helping others do for themselves. I solve problems for people when they might be better served if I sat as the passenger in the car rather than driving it. Yep. It’s a problem for me and I thought it might be a problem for some of you that I know are high achieving. As I see it, being the driver is important. It gets us where we want or need to go and it even allows us to take others with us. But equally important, is stepping back a bit and letting those around us drive more often. I’m going to work on training myself to be a little slower jumping into action. Be a little more patient and don’t take over to get something done just because I can, I should so because it gets done faster and more effectively or simply because it will be done the way I want it. I’m not talking about lack of leadership and drive. Quite the opposite. I’m talking about using all those skills to help others solve problems and be leaders. Swooping in to “fix” things or handling a task is easy for people like you and me. What’s hard is not doing that.

So how am I going to solve the problem I’ve identified for myself? Stop, listen, and learn how to ask the right questions. Don’t take over just because it’s easier. Try to quickly assess what’s my stuff to do and solve and what’s not. How? Ask better questions. Stop instinctively jumping into action. Remind myself that stepping back will fulfill my passion of enabling people to use the best procedures and tools to get their work accomplished. People feel accomplished when they do stuff, not when others do. Being in the passenger seat means I’ll have more time to observe. More time to learn how to ask better questions. More time to practice resisting the urge to take over. More time to work on the balance of “doing” and helping others “do”.

I’ve written a list of 3 questions that I’m going to use to help me successfully solve the problem I’ve identified for myself. Here they are, in case you find yourself sometimes insisting on always driving. What’s your plan for getting this done and what might get in the way?

  • What do you need from me?
  • How is your current process or strategy working?
  • What do you want to do differently next time?

For me, I believe the key is not to drop the car keys in someone’s hands and walk away. It’s to be a good passenger; helpful when needed, but otherwise enjoying the ride, appreciative of being able to focus on something other than the road and looking forward to arriving at the destination. What do you think you should do?

Be the Passenger
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