When my son, Adam, was little I carried his lunch box for him. Like any good mother or father, everyday I would pack his lunch box with healthy snacks and put it in his cubby when I dropped him off at pre-school. One day, his teacher, Tina, asked me why I carry Adam’s lunch box. Exasperated, I responded by saying, “that’s what good mommies do.” She said, “Sandy, consider that Adam can carry his own lunch box.”
It took a while to get over myself and realize that carrying his lunch box was in fact a disservice – I was robbing him of the opportunity to be responsible and take ownership. As I pondered the lunch box issue, it became apparent that carrying lunch boxes is a corporate habit too. Have you noticed that in organizations we often have a tendency to carry other people’s lunch boxes? We offer the solution, solve the problem, fix the breakdown, and even do their work for them sometimes. Why?
Our tendency to carry other people’s lunch boxes is a basic instinct to help others, protect ourselves, demonstrate our experience, or in some cases, simply because it is more efficient. Yet, the cost can be significant. We promote dependence, reliance and even laziness. But, more importantly, we overload ourselves with other people’s responsibilities, clogging our days with demand and stress.
What if you gave up carrying other people’s lunch boxes – you allowed them to discover the solution, solve the problem, and learn whilst offering encouragement and support? Would it free you up to be more strategic and make wiser use of your time and energy to meet objectives?