Pillar 1 – Helping people up the ladder is easier than holding them on the bottom rung.
Today we talk about Pillar #1:
It’s WAY easier to help people up a ladder than keep them down on the bottom rung.
I hesitated before even documenting this pillar, but the older I get, the more I realize that people don’t innately get this concept. It is so important to help other people out. Call me weird, old-fashioned, or too good of a person – but I like helping people. But even I had to learn this lesson.
Screwing someone over is never ever a long-term win.
No matter how much you dislike someone, you have to at least try to help them out, especially when we are in a service area like IT.
By the way – did you know that? We are in a service job. I legitimately didn’t consider this until someone pointed it out to me. We exist to serve other people with our tech knowledge. Not to say that you are a SERVANT plebian who doesn’t proceed far in your career! Far from it, I want you to become an SME (Subject Matter Expert). But that’s the rub. It’s VERY easy to become cold and calculating the more you know. I know because this happened to me once. Let me paint the picture:
I had just been promoted to a new position of authority for networking at an oil and gas company, and I was responsible for all of IT infrastructure in a region. Kinda. Sorta – it was weird because I had not-quite-peers in the office, they were junior-to-mid level folks. There was a skill gap… NOT an aptitude or attitude gap though.
Therein lied the rub. I felt ever so much superior to my hard working really smart peers. Why? Because… science? Pride? Fear?
Who knows. One plausible reason was that I was a blind-spotted idiot, that’s why. I was so afraid of not being the smartest guy in the room that I built myself a sand kingdom. Ironically, what happened next was really quite humbling.
I GOT REPLACED.
That’s right – REPLACED.
Not on paper mind you, but corporate sent out a guy who would ultimately become the architect of the network. He was going to tag along to ‘help out’. What I learned next was oh so very humbling. In order, what I learned was:
#1 – I had done wrong by not empowering the guys in the office more.
Being a control-freak did not help me. Instead of doing deep dive training, I delegated stupid tasks I didn’t want to do. Don’t get me wrong – delegation is NOT bad. But expecting people you work with as a peer and leader to JUST do grunt work is wrong. I kept all the ‘good stuff’ for me, but there was too much of it.
#2 – I got a dose of what I SHOULD have done when I got mentored.
Instead of sweeping in and telling me what garbage my network design was (and there was room to poke a few holes I think, looking back) – this guy took me under his wing. We were having a really weird delay with some protocols. Instead of going ‘Hey jackass, go fix this problem’, no he did it the right way:
1: He walked me through why it was a problem.
2: Then he showed me how to fix it.
3: And had me show the other guys how to fix it.
I walked away changed.
Was I a little chaffed at being replaced? Yeah, I was, but I learned a MUCH DEEPER truth than setting a native VLAN on a trunk port because of random Israeli rules.
I learned ‘Show one, Do One, Teach One’.
I didn’t have those words, but I got the concept. And by God, it stuck (thanks Ronnie). For more about WHY I got replaced, stick around for my explanation on Pillar 5.
So who in your career can you mentor instead of delegating to?
If you can’t think of anyone, who should be mentoring you?
Leave a comment with any insights or experiences.