Be a Resource, Not a Limiter

The people that are most helpful in any organization are those who take initiative, rather than simply doing what they are told. What organizations need from their people is engagement, not mere compliance. (And, conversely, this is what makes a job most satisfying — being engaged, rather than simply seeking to comply).

This has implications for managers as well. If you manage in a certain way (namely, with a command and control focus), you incentivize compliance. But if you realize that management is not about control, but rather about helping to unleash the talents of your people for the performance of the organization, and that this comes from trusting your people and granting them autonomy, then you see yourself not as the “boss,” but as a source of help.

A manager is a source of help and a catalyst, not a limiter or controller.

Godin touches on this well in his recent post “Moving Beyond Teachers and Bosses“:

We train kids to deal with teachers in a certain way: Find out what they want, and do that, just barely, because there are other things to work on. Figure out how to say back exactly what they want to hear, with the least amount of effort, and you are a ‘good student.’

We train employees to deal with bosses in a certain way: Find out what they want, and do that, just barely, because there are other things to do. Figure out how to do exactly what they want, with the least amount of effort, and the last risk of failure and you are a ‘good worker.’

The attitude of minimize is a matter of self-preservation. Raise the bar, the thinking goes, and the boss will work you harder and harder. Take initiative and you might fail, leading to a reprimand or termination (think about that word for a second… pretty frightening).

The linchpin, of course, can’t abide the attitude of minimize. It leaves no room for real growth and certainly doesn’t permit an individual to become irreplaceable.

If your boss is seen as a librarian, she becomes a resource, not a limit. If you view the people you work with as coaches, and your job as a platform, it can transform what you do each day, starting right now. “My boss won’t let me,” doesn’t deserve to be in your vocabulary. Instead, it can become, “I don’t want to do that because it’s not worth the time/resources.” (Or better, it can become, “go!”)

The opportunity of our age is to get out of this boss as teacher as taskmaster as limiter mindset. We need more from you than that.

  • Noah

    I was recently contemplating on the balance between just getting by and going all in. As a student, my attitude has often been to just get by. Now I find some of this attitude translating to my student teaching. My conundrum is that now that I have matured and tend to spend much more of my free time engaged in productive learning activities, I feel that I have a right to be jealous of extra time. For example, I feel that taking time to do outside studies (not necessarily on the subject that I will teach)and so becoming a more knowledgeable and well-rounded person overall is worth producing a merely adequate teaching hour that could have been been better had I spent extra time planning special activities, visuals, etc. My temporary product may be weaker, but my person will be better. Is this flawed thinking? Does this come from laziness and a lack of concern for quality and for my students or does this come from a proper long-term view?

  • Roger Healey

    I have been teaching for 20 years so I hope I can comment in a constructive way. Your main concern should be doing a good job in the classroom, but it’s legitimate to devote some time to personal learning for the long-run. Consider adopting Google’s 20% rule, and make your personal learning your 20% project. If you limit it to 20%, you won’t have to feel that you are neglecting your teaching–after all that is what your employer is paying you for. There are many articles on the web about Google’s 20% rule, but here is one I found quickly:

    Like many things in life, a “corner solution” is not the answer (this means spending 100% of your time on teaching would not be good, and spending 100% of your time on personal learning would not be good either.)

    I realize the 20% number is arbitrary, but it seems to work well.