There’s a fascinating book about John Wesley Powell, called “The Last Canyon”, by John Vernon, it explores their early expedition of discovery through the Grand Canyon.
And in it there is a small piece of dialogue near the front of the book.
In that dialogue, Powell chastises one of his crew about his surliness. The crewman, Bill Dunn, says this in return, “I don’t wish to be happy”. “Why is that?” asks Powell. “Afraid it won’t last”, replies Dunn.
And sometimes do we get in our own way?
Is it possible, even subconsciously, that we are afraid of being happy, perhaps because we fear the pain afterwards if we lose it, might be so uncomfortable that we would really hurt?
Fast-forward into a business context. On the one hand, is it possible that your people might feel uncomfortable taking on new experiences, challenges and even responsibilities because they could be afraid of ‘getting it wrong’ and thus suffering pain.
And if so, how do you get them over that hump.
Indeed how do you encourage those people in your team who show no interest in progression at all, or simply don’t want to take on extra responsibilities because of the possibility of ‘getting it wrong’?
Small steps, well supported, encouraged, never wrong. That’s how. Have you seen, or even been yourself, a mother with a child starting to walk?
Well, that’s how you gently stretch your people. Far from being small children who have no concept of ‘wrong’, your people have a lifetime’s experience of being told off – so they need a gentle touch all the more.
Small steps lead, over time to huge leaps.
As a manager and as a coach, I’ve worked with a number of employees and clients who just needed the encouragement to get them going and then there was no stopping them, yet their working (and sometimes home) environment was anything but encouraging.
It is very fulfilling work, the time we spend together.
And you can do this too, as a benefit to your business or organisation, by ‘growing empowered and capable people and above all, to those individuals who, for one reason or another are “Afraid it won’t last”, so don’t try at all.