Sept. 2009: The Secret to Life’s Most Vexing Problems: “One Size Fits One”September 1, 2009
Which is the real “true” religion?
When a high-performing “rainmaker” – on whose efforts the company or firm has come to depend – creates internal disruption through disrespect or arrogance, what action should the leader take?
What’s the best way to handle a major betrayal in a partnership?
What are caring parents supposed to do when their 25-year-old daughter – a college graduate – simply cannot figure out what to do with her life?
What is the smartest way to solve the problems of diminishing clean water, too much garbage, crippling diseases and other looming issues that confront life on earth?
The answer to the above questions is that there is no clear-cut answer.
When facing life’s most vexing problems, there is no secret, no formula, no single solution or answer that works for all, or even most situations.
Life is complex, the way we don’t like it.
I notice that many of my clients try to apply a “one size fits all” mentality to mentoring their most promising employees, structuring work patterns and parenting their own children.
My colleague, Leslie Murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org) past chair of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants suggests “One size fits one” might be a more useful guideline.
Because one 16-year-old has the maturity to handle the responsibilities of driving a car doesn’t mean all 16-year-olds do. One size fits one.
Some exemplary leaders are gregarious and driven; others are quiet and reserved.
One size fits one.
Some intuitive impulses – e.g., throwing away a credit card or jumping out of the way of a oncoming truck – can prevent great suffering. Other intuitive impulses – e.g., trying cocaine or marrying based solely on romance – can ruin one’s life. Should intuitive impulses be followed? One size fits one.
Higher-maturity leaders accept and explore complexity and ambiguity, and mistrust “one size fits all” solutions.
Finding an “expert” who offers solutions and answers is not a difficult task.
Quick fixes have always been lucrative and seductive business.
In tough times, the societal and business appetite for certainty runs at fever pitch. The higher one’s anxiety, the more vulnerable one is to “one size fits all” answers to life’s most vexing questions.
• Religious fundamentalism flourishes among the uneducated, offering simple answers to those poorly equipped to think for themselves. The less mature the individual, the easier it is for outside forces to whip them into a frenzy over a set of magical beliefs offering certainty;
• Diet pills sell like hotcakes, promising 30 or 60-day solutions – a simplistic alternative to figuring out what it would take to stay healthy and fit for life;
• Unseasoned leaders purchase superficial consulting approaches in which the “expert” consultant provides off-the-shelf solutions, relieving leaders of the need to take responsibility for their own problems;
The tendency towards cosmetic solutions and away from responsible thinking – you could think of it as “the irresponsibility virus” – is spreading like wildfire across all segments of our society.
No one is immune to this virus. It can only be tamed by a long-term commitment from each individual to grow up. Some can do this to a greater extent than others.
Thankfully, good clinical research and the evolutionary record provides clues toward understanding and elevating emotional maturity.
These science-based lessons on growing up should be particularly useful to leaders – parents, partners, principals, presidents – whose job it is to promote competence and confidence in others:
1. Take responsibility for self
2. Think about how you think
3. Observe variation in high-functioning individuals
4. Think of several possibilities instead of believing there is only one
5. Instead of presenting your ideas as facts, preface your sentences with “In my view,” or “In my experience.”
6. Acknowledge often how much you don’t know. Confusion and “honest ignorance” are the seeds of innovation.
©2009 Leadership Coaching, Inc. All rights reserved.