Toddling vs. Coddling
I have a granddaughter.
(That’s not new news to those of you who have been around the blog for a while, but it’s my contractual obligation as a first-time Pops to mention that every third blog post.)
At the time of this writing, Skylar is 18 months old. And my goodness, what a time to be a Pops and get to observe the world she’s inhabiting. She’ll attempt to repeat any word you throw at her. She loves to color and create. She’s speaking in occasional full sentences (and sometimes we can even understand them).
As much as I want to fight it, Skylar Beth is moving from a needy, cuddly infant to an increasingly independent, mobile toddler.
But as a Pops, I have a duty to celebrate that independence: to give her help where she needs it, but also give her the tools to do it herself. To teach her certain skills, but back away as she begins to make those skills her own.
If she’s never given the space to explore, to learn, to figure it out, then her independence is squashed and her skills wither before they’re given a chance to grow. That inquisitive 18 month old will soon become an intellectually malnourished 18 year old, still dependent on her mom and dad to navigate through life.
As I reflect on this new toddler stage, I can’t help but draw a comparison to those whom we lead. Nearly every volunteer or staff member begins as an infant: helpless. Shouldn’t be left alone. Next to no knowledge about their new world, so we have to carefully feed them everything they need.
But as they continue their journey, independence kicks in. Skills are gained. What we once did for them, they can now do for themselves. Where we once didn’t allow them to make the call, now we celebrate when they use good context to figure it out.
Our role as leaders is to equip those whom we lead. And equipping means faithfully overseeing them from the infant to the toddler to the fully mature stage, gradually stepping back as they gain more independence.
To continue to do it all for them is not only a drain on the leader, it’s an insult to them. When we coddle a volunteer, we do them no favors and we set them up for failure.
So how about your team? Got a few toddlers that you need to equip for success? Or are you coddling them all, teaching them to be ever-more dependent on your desire to do it all?
This post was inspired by a conversation with my friend David Talbert.