The meeting was into the second hour of presentations and reports about how to correct current tactical problems and strategic misalignments when the senior executive next to me bent over and whispered, “you can’t fix dumb.” It was a completely inappropriate comment about a young manager who at the time was trying to present his best thinking about a complex set of problems.
Our challenge as leaders is not to get caught trying to fix everything. Even if we skipped sleeping for the rest of our life, we will never get caught up with all that needs fixing. When you enter the world of leadership, you will learn that everything and every one wants your attention in the workplace. But many leaders at this time period are caught in the trap of trying very hard to fix everything that is broken.
We forget that what got us promoted over the course of our careers was our capacity to solve problems efficiently and effectively. The more we did this the more senior leaders at the time were pleased and encouraged our further development. We kept fixing things and as a result we kept getting bumped up to the next level of management.
However, what was an asset in the beginning of our career can become a liability. This happens because when we fix everything for everyone else, we create dependent relationships with our peers and our direct reports. They learn, and then will always need our help to solve their problems.
Rather than becoming a permanent fixer within the organization, we need to become a facilitator of helping other people learn how to manage their work and their challenges. In the beginning, this will take more time and some people will feel that it would be easier to just do it themselves. However, if we continue to fix things, we just perpetuate the problem.
This week, I strongly encourage to stop trying to fix everything and everyone. Instead, invest your time and attention to helping people learn how to solve their own problems. It will not be easy at first, but the long term ROI is worth the investment.