Where to give your best

As leaders, we wonder where to invest our precious little time. It’s not easy to decipher who should get our energy, development, and attention.

The most staff I’ve ever directly supervised is twenty three. My apologies to them momentarily. Today I understand better what I wish I did then: Your best energy should be directed at the most hungry.

This seems counter intuitive. The most hungry are often those who need the least management. Its the distracted, bored, underperforming, and whiny that need attention. They have to be catered to and motivated. Their complaints have to be heard and needs met.

I wish I had ignored them.

It’s not that I don’t care about the people, but by giving oxygen to their complaining, I didn’t realize I was often fueling their fire (and not dampening it). I wanted to help. Perhaps, I wanted to be the hero. I thought by listening, I was helping them get it all out. I wasn’t.

You can’t listen your way out of someone else’s dysfunction. Needyness doesn’t go away by meeting every need.

When I write things like this, I wonder if the needy people I used to work with will read it and be hurt. More than likely, they aren’t quite self-aware to know I’m thinking about them. But if you are: I’m sorry.

What I didn’t know then was that I was part of the problem. The best thing in the world for you wasn’t for me to solve your problem, but to help you face it.

And to the over-performers. I’m also sorry. I was definitely the problem. I should have taken more time to empty my cup into yours.

Leaders: you are not in the business of avoiding difficulty. Your job is not to make their pain go away. You are in the business of developing leaders. Help them navigate real tensions, manage complexity, and make decisions.

You’ll stay in the game longer. You’re investment will go further. You’ll make a bigger impact.

Invest as much of your time as possible in the most hungry.

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