Pot Covers and Baby Boys

02 May

It was sitting on the floor in the kitchen. Menacing. Staring at me. Waiting for someone to pick it up. What did I do?

I left it there!

Not out of laziness or lack of desire. And, definitely not because I enjoy having pot covers on kitchen floors.

Someone definitely needed to pick it up. But, who? I didn’t put it there!

So, I asked around. I found the culprit. It was my one year old, David.

Apparently he believes that the key to pleasure is to open cupboards, pull everything out, then leave it all on the floor.

Now I had a decision to make. Do I pick it up? Or does he pick it up?

What has my world become? Is picking up pot covers my reason for existence?

It would obviously be quicker if I picked it up. But, if he is able to pull it out and put it on the floor, is he not then able to pick it up?

And herein lies one of the most basic values of true leadership. Leadership is at its most potent when we teach and train others to do what we can do ourselves.

In fact, I would go as far as saying that one of the greatest growth methods in any organization has to do with this simple concept.

I called little David to come to me and pick it up. He ignored me. I called again. He ignored. I walked over to him, grabbed his arm, then brought him to the kitchen. I told him to pick it up. He started to cry. Evelyn walked in. He reached out for her (I guess mom’s have the special touch). She told him to pick it up. He cried more. I told him again. More crying. Evelyn told him. Even more crying.


He picked it up.

He did what we had asked him to do.

Most leaders spend their time picking up pot covers. You see, if you pick it up for one person, you’ll continue to pick it up for everyone. Then, the few seconds it takes to pick it up will be multiplied by the amount of people you have to pick up after. Later on, after being so accustomed to being taken care of, your people will become dependent on you, but their problems won’t grow smaller…they’ll grow larger. Soon enough, you won’t simply be picking up pot covers…you’ll be putting out fires and wondering how everything got out of control.

Along the way, you will lose focus, get frustrated, wonder why all of this is happening to you, and your dreams and visions for what your organization could be will get buried under a mountain of anger, bitterness and guilt.

Can I make a simple suggestion?

Teach those around you how to do it. Teach them to pick up after themselves. Teach them to do what you can do.

If you do this, there is no limit to how far…

…your organization will expand

…your people will go

They have more potential than you realize. It’s time to release them into it, even if their experience is equivalent to a one year old baby named David.

Lead on!

1 Comment

Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Leadership, Uncategorized


Tags: , , ,

One response to “Pot Covers and Baby Boys

  1. Tim Mossholder

    June 28, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Well said, Jeff! Intuitively we know there will be the initial struggle of wills, and I think we often just pick up after others because we don’t want the conflict. But in the long run, a little interpersonal tug of war is far better than a major blow up.


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