By Michael Mellen
When my daughter was 18 months old, she got hold of a spoonful of hot salsa and ate it. I watched as she scrunched up her face, turned a bit red, closed her eyes, paused for a moment, and then determinedly said, “More.” She’s been eating the most flavorful and spicy salsas and sauces she can find ever since. She received a box of 40 different hot sauces for her 11th birthday. Each of us has a different tolerance or preference for spice, and the foods we choose or the foods we cook for others reflect those preferences. We seek that perfect space between flavorless and scalding.
Leaders hold the responsibility for helping their teams stay in that space between flavorless and scalding as well. Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky explain in Harvard Business Review, “Keeping an organization in a productive zone of disequilibrium is a delicate task; in the practice of leadership, you must keep your hand on the thermostat. If the heat is consistently too low, people won’t feel the need to ask uncomfortable questions or make difficult decisions. If it’s consistently too high, the organization risks a meltdown: People are likely to panic and hunker down.” This zone of disequilibrium creates space for creativity, productivity, and intentional evolution. It has the potential, in our constantly shifting environment, to engage team members throughout the organization – rather than solely the senior leadership – in problem solving and vision.
By Michael Mellen
When supervising, parenting, advising, mentoring, or coaching, when the other person seems to be on the right track, I often have one more thought, idea, or tweak to consider. Or two more. Or three. Even when I know the person I’m talking with has a good idea, I still sense that extra little something that might make all the difference and I share and share again. Sharing isn’t so harmful, maybe it’s even helpful in the moment. However, people start to count on me for an extra idea, for advice, for having an answer, and they start to trust themselves a little less. Without much effort, I’m doing their work, coming up with their ideas, trusting in me instead of in them. I’m getting in the way of them owning their work.
Imagine that a staff person comes to you with a challenge. They share the challenge with you and you ask, “How are you thinking of handling this challenge?” Your team member shares an idea. If you’re like me, and this idea is decent, you will share all the ways in which their approach works and ways in which it might work even better. This approach seems to be successful.
However, there’s another option. Use “My Scale of Close Enough.”