Velcro or Laces?

The Crux of Developing Leaders

When explaining to colleagues the importance of letting the work force learn by completing the task, I often use the analogy of teaching one’s child to tie his or her shoes.

I remember the lack of patience I had when teaching my son (now 16 years old) to tie his shoes. During the first week, I stood by the front door with our bags and my car key in hand, looking down at my son fumble with his laces. The first few times, I bent down, took the laces from him and said “Watch this, are you watching? Look at my hands and say it with me o-ver, un-der, pull-it-tight, make-a-bow, pull it through, to do it right! Okay, you got it?” Then out the door we went!

A week later, when I picked him up from school, I noticed a parent putting on his daughter’s Velcro shoes. He noticed me watching him, as I waited (impatiently) for my son to put on his shoes. He said “hey, after a couple weeks of sitting where you’re sitting, we said screw it, we’re getting her velcros … wayyy less frustrating.” I nodded my head in agreement, and then looked down at my son … eagerly trying to remember the technique of tying his shoes.

I waved good-bye to the father and daughter, taking note of her cute little Velcro shoes. Then, I realized that each time I interrupted my son’s learning experience, because he was not tying his shoes in the manner and speed that suited me, I was actually robbing him of his growth, his learning experience, and his sense of accomplishment. It was at that moment that I decided, there was NO WAY I was going to buy my kid Velcro shoes.

The same concept holds true in the adult work force. Some leaders are destroying the next generation of leaders because they are not teaching them. Some leaders are overwhelmed by the (often self-inflicted) sense of urgency, the fear of failure, the ill-fated need for perfection, and the illusion that their method and solution is the best option.

My sense of urgency while waiting for my son to tie his shoes was due to my failure to build time to teach him into our morning routine. Did you know that not teaching a child to tie their shoe is also a problem because they do not experience the process of doing something that is difficult, which prevents them from realizing that it does sometimes take a lot of work to learn a new skillset? Did you know that the person who strives for perfection usually does so because they feel defective and want to hide their own flaws? Did you know that there are at least three common methods for tying one’s shoe?

So the next time you utter “I don’t have time to wait,” or “If I do it myself I know it will be right” you should challenge your thought process … is time really the issue … if you actually let them complete the task, it is likely they will succeed … if you don’t, then you will never know their potential … and by the way … who crowned you Mr./Ms. Perfection?