Coming from anybody else’s mouth these words might have struck Mr Wells as trite, but uttered by the man in front of him they became the irrefutable truth. This creature was living proof that man’s will could move mountains and part seas. In that hospital wing, that refuge from the world, the distance between the attainable and unattainable was more than ever a question of will.
What might he be capable of – he who is only prevented from doing whatever he want by his own lack of self-belief?
Felix J. Palma, The Map of Time
I’m reading that book at present and last night I came across that passage. It reminded me very strongly on our capabilities as individuals and on our limitations. How often did I think, “I can’t do that.” It’s too difficult, I don’t know anything about it, I don’t have the tools, or even I don’t have the time, are the most common excuses I have used myself.
The reality is, I was afraid of failure, afraid of being laughed at, and sometimes simply to lazy.
Now, can I look at some successes? Yes, I believe so. For example, the house we are living in we have largely built ourselves. We used a retired builder to show us the ropes, read books about building standards, made mistakes, and learned by doing it again. “Measure twice, cut once” will stick in my ears forever. My wife Susani wanted to go out dancing with me. I’m not a dancer. I thought. So, I said yes and one day we went to our first lesson of Argentine Tango. It was a shocker. The man is supposed to lead and I had no clue how to. We learned walking – again. This time the proud walking of Latin America. I asked for a DVD to review our lessons. I sketched the steps and moves onto a piece of paper and my wife made me dance. I felt more than once stupid (and so did Susani) and finally we got over that hurdle and got the moves. We danced at our anniversary and everybody said “wow”.
Yes, if you want it you will make it. We moved from Germany to New Zealand 13 years ago with no job to go to. I was nervous as hell but I was sure it would work out. And it did. 3 months to get the right job, 3 months at school for the kids and they spoke English. We had some hard weeks, but we wanted to make it work.
A number of times things didn’t work out. We wanted to learn sailing. So far, we haven’t got of the ground with this endeavour. Yes, we have been sailing the odd times and we got some information. But honestly we haven’t put much heart into it yet. And that’s the core reason why I can’t sail (yet). It’s not because I’m not fit enough, don’t have a boat, don’t live next to a harbour or jetty – no, it’s because I haven’t put much effort into it. Let’s see what I can do in a year’s time!
As a leader, what can you do that others overcome their barriers and achieve something great?
- It starts with goal setting. And I’ve blogged about that before.
- The goal must be the other’s goal not yours. Your goal must be that the other person achieves his or her goal.
- Keep track of the progress. This may be from a distance or close up. Make sure you advise and support or show and tell. Don’t do it for them.
- Provide assistance. Training material or courses, working in a goal related department, organising a mentor, or just be a sounding board.
- Let the person succeed on his own terms. And acknowledge successes and progress. Still ensure it’s done to the required standard.
- Celebrate completing the assignment. There will always be things that can be improved. Don’t be too picky. And stick to the expectations that have been agreed upon.