As a manager, I sometimes struggle with navigating conversations where a direct report shares their experience dealing with an issue that I know is an issue but is large enough that it will take weeks or months to feel progress. I don't want to leave them hanging or downplay the situation to try and make them feel better. So, I listen. But, at times, I feel helpless. It can feel as though bricks are piling on my back one at a time, then soon enough, it's hard to walk.
I shared this experience with Chris, my coach, earlier this month. He responded with this: the person who offers the most hope is the one with the most influence.
All month long, I've carried this statement with me. I've even shared it with some folks on my team. It's a reminder that I don't need to provide a quick-fix solution to be a leader for my team. Nor should I become consumed by seemingly urgent issues. Instead, I can acknowledge the current reality then anchor the conversation on the future vision and provide hope.
Hope helps us see that our challenges today are temporary, and frankly, the journey to overcome them is worthwhile. It means we'll achieve a brighter tomorrow. Without hope, we lay in bed at night, sleepless, asking ourselves: what's the point?
In keeping with the brick metaphor, Chris urged me to take the brick off my back, look to the future, and ask my direct report, "How can we lift this together?" It's no longer about me solving the problem alone or asking them to go figure it out. It's about working together to see what small steps we can take today to ensure long-term progress tomorrow.