Daniel is the go-to-guy in the department for developing impactful power point presentations for the sales teams.
He knows how to use every feature, how to create appropriate animations, insert photographs and word art, and make a slide of heavy text engaging for the audience.
He incorporates sound, video, interactive polls for an audience, and makes the speaker look like they are brilliant.
Everyone goes to Daniel when they need a kick-ass slide deck.
Mark is recently hired in the department and is starting to learn how to use the software so that he can assist Daniel and serve as his back-up during vacations or sick time.
He is also going to be lead by Daniel in creating content, now that the sales department has enjoyed a steady increase in activity.
If we were to rank proficiency on a scale of 1 through 10, then we could say that Daniel is a 9.5 in terms of experience, where Mark is about a 3.
Mark knows the basics of the software, is able to create simple presentations, but does not have nearly as much experience as Daniel does with the tool.
As Mark trains under Daniel on the program, he begins to learn about all of the amazing features, capabilities, and options at his disposal.
He practices his new learnings and provides Daniel with draft presentations to look over and approve, looking for assistance when he gets stuck.
The situation looks great from the outside.
So, now lets look underneath the surface at the communication style developing between Mark and Daniel.
Being proficient in using this presentation tool, Daniel is able to create content quickly and without significant effort.
But Mark is a novice and is developing this skill. Each step is new, therefore he seeks out Daniel’s assistance often.
When Mark approaches Daniel for help, Daniel’s response is, “Oh, that’s easy!” and he quickly manipulates the program to achieve the effect that Mark was asked to produce.
Did you notice what happened there? The subtle, but important way that interaction went down?
Daniel has forgotten what it is like to be a novice and not know how to do something. So when Daniel claims that each step is easy, he means that it is easy for him.
Each time that Mark is told that the next step in his learning process is easy, it makes him feel like he is incompetent.
This is because the underlying message is, “it should be easy, but you seem to be stuck”.
It won’t be long before Mark stops asking questions all together, given that each time he does he is made to feel like he is incapable of grasping the information, rather than in the middle of the learning process.
When we are in a position of leadership, it is important to remember that when people come to you for assistance, it is because they do not know what you know.
Saying something is ‘easy’ does not make it easy for the individual asking for help, and in fact it can damage the relationship and eventually lead to the person not asking for help ever again.
A great leader finds individuals coming to them regularly for advice, guidance, mentoring, and assistance.
Great leaders are excited that you want to learn something new, and are happy to take the time and effort needed to help you move from not knowing, to knowing.
They recognize opportunities to teach and understand that developing a new skill, or learning something new, takes time and practice.
So, now it’s your turn.
This week, observe how many times you state the phrase, “it’s easy” when asked for assistance with something.
Then, make the subtle change in your response and watch what happens to the quality of your relationships with team members.