A few months ago our daughter turned six, and one of the things she had been asking for was to get her ears pierced. My wife and I discussed it at length, ultimately decided that we would leave the decision up to our daughter.
We first sat down with her and took time to understand what was motivating her to pursue this. As we talked we realized that it wasn’t motivated by peer pressure of other girls at her school, rather that it was something she wanted to do. My wife explained everything our daughter would need to know, including the actual process of getting her ears pierced, the after-care that would be required, and the responsibility it entailed. And then we told our daughter that it was her choice to make as to whether she went forward.
Before I go any further, some people may be scratching their heads wondering why we let her choose. After all, she is only six. As I told this story to some friends, one did ask me why we gave her the choice. My response was simple; my wife and I both recognized this as an opportunity for our daughter to understand that choices have consequences and impacts. We also wanted to help her start to learn how to make responsible decisions for herself. After all, we’re not going to be there to make every decision in her life (nor would I want to.)
So back to our story. After we presented all the information, I asked our daughter what her decision was. To her credit (this is a six-year old, remember,) she simply said, “Can I have some time to think about it?” We assured her that she could take all the time she needed. She thanked us and then went off to play. A couple days later, she informed us that she had decided to get her ears pierced. The adventure of the actual ear piercing is for another time, ripe with some learning opportunities for Papa.
As I looked back at this it made me think about some of the leaders I’ve worked for and with in my life. What I realized is the ones who were really successful at developing their people and getting the best results from them were the ones who empowered others to make decisions, and then supported them in the process. Take a moment to think about someone you worked for that you consider a good or great leader. Did they empower you to make decisions? Did they provide you the information you needed so that you could make quality decisions? What did they do to support and empower you?
We are all leaders in some aspect of our lives. I want to encourage you to take time to evaluate where you could be giving those you lead more opportunities to make their own choices. Establish opportunities to help them feel more empowered. Remember the impact it has had for you, and then consider how you can foster that same type of environment for those around you.
What will you do today to empower someone else to make their own choice?