A few years ago, I read about a new type of consulting service. A woman in Washington, DC, offered to confidentially assist senior leaders in using their organization’s IT systems. For a hefty price, she would come, during non-working hours, to teach the client how to understand the various pieces of equipment and software applications. The client could perform as if they knew what they were doing, while the consultant was behind the scenes helping to translate IT “jibber-jabber” into directions that the client could understand. When there was something that the consultant could not figure out, an email would go from the client to the IT staff with the question and with specific direction that the reply be provided by email; there was no risk that the client’s lack of computer savvy would be discovered.
I found it amazing that the consultant had left her own “day job” position because the consulting work had become so lucrative.
In my life, I have been embarrassed more than a few times at my lack of a particular skill. Yep, I have sent out emails with words spelled incorrectly; I have deleted files on my computer after having just received instruction on how to save them; I have had to resave many files because I had no idea where I had put them on my hard drive; and, I have stumbled to explain an abruptly ended phone call rather than admit that I pushed the “end call” button when I meant to push “mute.”
It is embarrassing to have others see our weaknesses.
Now, I believe that leaders should learn to do what they are supposed to do. (And, yes, eventually I learned how to use that doggone speaker phone.) But, how does a leader handle the fact that they are not good at everything? Here are a couple of options.
- We can substitute a different skill. Like the driver fearful of left turns who only makes right turns, it may take us extra time and trouble to get the job done, but we won’t be embarrassed.
- We can fake it. Looking like a bobble-head doll, we can continue to appear as if we understand the task when we are really thinking about what we want to have for lunch.
- We can task someone else to do it for us. I seem to remember saying once, “I’m curious to see how you do this; we probably have different approaches.” (My approach was to stare at the machine and pray for a power failure.)
- We can pretend that the task doesn’t exist. “I don’t trust an electronic signature. Print it out for me and I’ll sign the document the way that it should be done – the old fashioned way.”
Or, we can just admit that we don’t know how to do something and let another teach us or do it for us. Like Moses of old, we may find that God has given special talents to others. (Exodus 31:6 “I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you.”)
It is time for us to recognize that we will never be able to do it all. Don’t focus on your weaknesses. Instead, be thankful that there are many talented people who need to use their talents.
Suck it up!
Be humble – accept the fact that you aren’t Superman or Wonder Woman!
And, remember to say “thank you.” Your “thank you” may be the blessing that someone needs today.