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(c) Jason Barnhart

Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.


Close Enough Is Good Enough

I’ve noticed a lot about leadership from observing the way I treat my children. What I’ve learnt is that the way we treat our children when we teach them new skills is brilliant. And I think perhaps it would be wise for us to treat the people we lead more like children.

Not that we talk down to them or take away responsibility or anything like that. But simply that perhaps there’s wisdom in helping move people forward that can be gleaned by how we help kids to move forward.

The thing I noticed is that kids don’t really know how to do much of anything. Some things come instinctively, but lots of things need to be learnt. Like learning to talk. When my 1 year old Willow is learning to talk she doesn’t really know anything. She makes some noises, but it’s very hard to work out what she’s trying to communicate. And she really has almost no idea what she’s doing. And it’s the same with adults and a new task. Most of the time – more often than we car to admit – we have no idea what we’re doing. So our positions are very similar in that sense. So how do we teach them to talk?

Well the first thing I noticed is that when we’re teaching them words the principle we go with is: “close enough is good enough”. If I’m teaching Willow to say “dog”, if she says that short “oh” sound and points to the dog, I praise her like she’s just solved the mystery of perpetual motion. She got in the general ball park.

And then I slowly scale my praise down over time as saying “oh” becomes the usual. Then I start to try and get her to say the “g” sound. When she finally says, “og” and points to the dog I again ramp up the praise and make her into the house hero. She’s getting closer and she’s doing a good job.

And then I again slowly scale down my praise as that becomes normal and I again push her forward to get that “d” sound at the start. And then when she finally gets the whole word “dog” I ratchet the praise up again like she’s just saved Ghandi’s kitten from certain doom.

Close enough is good enough. Until it’s not. And then when they move forward close enough is good enough. Until it’s not.

When learning a new skill or venturing into new territory praise needs to be piled on because close enough is good enough. Until it’s not.

Treat them like children.

I actually learnt 3 things from reflecting on how we help our children make progress. But that’s for next time.