flickr photo by Peter Werkman (

Dropping the ball

I recently dropped the ball in a big way. I don’t normally coordinate events, but in this case I was the point of contact for a group that was going to be using our space for an event. Everything seemed like it was working fine, there wasn’t much communication back and forth, but the whole thing seemed straight forward. We were about a week away from when the event was occurring, I had said everything was all set and things were ready to go. Then my wife and I ended up in the hospital to have our second child. I knew I was going to be off for a couple of weeks so I got in touch with someone, who we will call G, to take over the event. I was on top of it.

Or so I thought. G, who was kind enough to step in for me, quickly found out I had missed just about everything necessary to make this event successful. There were more people than we initially expected, in our new building we need security guards and elevators unlocked in the evenings, we needed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed…the list went on. I had totally missed all of this, and really, nothing at all was ready for the event that I just dropped onto this very helpful person. This was going to be a terrible failure.

But then it wasn’t. Something really amazing happened. G and a few other great people caught my dropped ball and turned it into a slam dunk. They quickly figured out what was missing and came together to get it all done so that we had a very successful event.

This in itself is a pretty cool story but it also got me thinking. If I had of taken care of everything would G have even considered stepping up and owning this? She may have, but maybe not. I doubt it would have been quite the same amount of involvement even if she had. My misstep created a unique opportunity for her to get very involved and own this project.

This was an important realization and lesson to me as a manager. You need to create the opportunities for your team to grow, and you should do this with intention. But if you do happen to drop the ball unintentionally, try to give your team the space to seize the opportunity before trying to pick it up yourself.

If you don’t drop the ball once and awhile no one else will have an opportunity to pick it up and play.