getting out of the way

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“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Whew.

 

In business … getting out of the way … if you are even mediocrely qualified or actually good at what you do … this may be one of the most difficult things to do.

 

What am I talking about?

 

Get out of the way of someone who knows what they are doing.

 

Now.

 

This isn’t about ‘planting your own ideas in someone else’s head” <which you see a number of articles on if you try and google this topic … oh … by the way … interestingly I couldn’t find one article out of the gazillions I am sure google peruses on this specific topic>.

 

This is simply getting out of the way of someone who actually knows what the hell they are doing.

 

This topic actually came up from a young person who actually asked ‘why don’t stupid people get out of the way of the people who actually know what they are doing.”

 

My immediate response was relatively flippant … “because most stupid people don’t recognize they are stupid … about something.”

 

Okay.

No one panic.

 

I followed that quickly with “listen … most people truly aren’t stupid … they are just blind to what they may actually not be as good at versus someone else.”

 

But.

So, often, out of the mouths of babes comes truth.

 

We often sit in our office, or in a meeting with a group of people, and if someone could read the thought bubble over our heads they would stare <mouth agape probably> when they read “why the fuck won’t these stupid people get out of the way so someone who knows what they are doing can get this done?”

 

C’mon.

 

Admit it.

We have all done it.

We have all thought it.

 

But here is the other side of that coin.

 

It is really really difficult to admit you are one of the ‘stupid people’ and should be getting out of the way.

 

<by the way … I am simply using stupid as a harsher place holder for ‘less qualified’ or ‘not as good as’>

 

First.

Reminder.

 

Most people are not stupid <even in business> and the odds are you aren’t stupid … it is simply a way of expressing your frustration and it isn’t literal.

 

 

Second.

Well.

 

It is difficult to get out of the way for a number of reasons but let’s pick two:

 

<1> Yourself and … <2> someone else.

 

Huh?

 

–          Yourself.

 

This is ego. As well as society <a little> I imagine. But let’s discuss ego first.

 

Getting out of the way implies you are not good enough or qualified enough … and you will not only feel like shit … you will look bad to everyone else.

 

You kind of have to discipline yourself a little to be able to get out of the way.

This type of discipline is not easy.

Society does not support it and the drive to intervene in the process is rooted in how we were brought up, what we have seen around us and reinforced in our culture … as in … accepted behavior of those who are successful.

 

 

It is a difficult challenge to overcome the slightly narcissistic impulse to show off ‘your game’ and instead step out of the way and accept you can simply be there … without everything depending on you.

 

It is difficult for someone to not only know there are better circumstances you can be in but also that there’s a better way to do something.

It is difficult to think that if you actually step out of the way you may learn something and become better <mostly because you feel if you pass on this opportunity you will never get the opportunity again>.

It is difficult to decide in the moment in the self interest in wanting to better yourself <and do what’s right> that, technically, you are actually getting out of your own way.

 

But it’s not easy because these types of decisions boil down to how you see yourself and how much value yourself. Maybe I could say instead … how comfortable you are with yourself.

 

If you think about it … shedding all the angst and society and all the ‘here is how you are supposed to act’ type bullshit … your actions reflect what you want for yourself and what you feel you deserve.

 

In the end … as with almost everything it seems … getting out of the way and yourself is mostly about character. Oddly enough … it is difficult to be honest with yourself.

 

 

Next.

 

–          Someone else.

 

Ok.

 

This is a version of yourself … this is assessing the ‘someone else’ who wants you to get out of the way.

 

Beyond the fact you may be admitting that someone may be better than you at something else … you are actually evaluating that someone else.

 

Uh oh.

And typically we suck at that.

 

We suck at that because we typically judge our co-workers on the wrong criteria.

 

Sure.

If they have delivered on what they promised in the past … it does count for something.

And their resume of past behavior and performance can count <albeit resumes are dubious things at best>.

 

But how much should it REALLY count?

 

Because, uh oh <a BIG business truth here> most expertise is situational.

 

As in discrete.

As in mutually exclusive.

 

Uh oh.

What that means is you cannot judge based on anything historical but rather you have to judge within the moment and the situation.

 

Wow.

That sucks.

 

And we suck at it.

 

Ok.

 

Beyond dealing with yourself and someone else.

 

When we do get out of the way … feeding back to our ego … we feel compelled to praise.

And, frankly, praising someone in the work place is … well … sometimes painful <particularly with a peer>. And if it isn’t painful it is certainly uncomfortable.

 

Most of us are not skilled enough to be diplomatic and sincere without being condescending or … well … I cannot find the right words … but most of us just plain suck at praising effectively in the work place.

And honestly … there are some good reasons why we suck at it.

 

The behavioral reason <not the immature reason> is that we worry <and know from research> that the praised-for-every-achievement employee ends up reflecting a happier, more successful and highly self-esteemed employee … but more likely … the employee will become a ‘pleasing mode’ model employee … one who is driven to success not by personal curiosity but rather by the desire to earn praise by simply living up to expectations.

 

Whew.

 

Looking back at what I just wrote … that sure sounds cynical. Or maybe it just sounds shallow in referring to how people think or act. Take solace in the fact that it really isn’t … because it is mainly a subconscious thing. We all do it to some degree … it is only the people who consciously suck up and seek praise by ‘being a sheep’ that aggravate us.

 

Now.

Living up to expectations isn’t a bad thing in the scheme of things but it also doesn’t represent the kind of dynamics you want in a growing & expanding employee <or in a business in general>. You prefer to inspire someone to WANT to do something not HAVE to do it <for some personal gain>.

 

Anyway.

 

Getting out of the way is more difficult than most people think.

For some good reasons and some bad reasons. Regardless of the reason … suffice it to say … we suck at getting out of the way.

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Written by Bruce