While heading to teach a Project Management course, I ran into a colleague making her way to teach a Database Management course. From a distance, I noticed that she was limping along with just one crutch. Knowing that she needed assistance, I approached her and asked how I could help. With the crutch on her right side, I provided balance by allowing her to hold my arm. She continued to limp, and we made several stops, but 15 minutes later, we arrived at her office.

The Story
While helping her along the way, she shared the story regarding her accident. Over the weekend, she fell while rock climbing, which caused an ankle injury. She did confess that she did not use the harness, which is recommended for this strenuous activity.

She went to her doctor, and he diagnosed her injury as an ankle sprain. He recommended no physical activity, especially rock climbing, for at least a month. Given that she needed assistance to walk, the doctor prescribed crutches. However, her doctor had two patients this day who both needed crutches. Therefore, he decided to give each one crutch.

Does this make sense?

I broke my leg while playing high school football, and was assigned crutches for 10 weeks. It was difficult enough to navigate with two of them, let alone one of them. Part of using crutches is learning to balance. You can imagine the difficulty of walking with just one crutch, especially when considering the pain of a recent ankle sprain.

Business Application
Let’s talk about how this example applies to our work in the business community. How many times do we ask our employees to perform work without providing them with the tools and training needed? In essence, we set them up for failure.

Here is how management can help us succeed:

Set clear expectations: ensure that all team members understand the end result. In essence, communicate the vision. While the leadership team sets the direction of the organization, the front-line employees execute the work.
Provide funding and resources: Money is needed for many reasons, including for training and development. You must also ensure that resources are available, including people and equipment.
Remove obstacles: When barriers are encountered, such as when you need information from another department, the management team needs to help with this effort. It’s important to understand the corporate culture. In some companies, decisions are made quickly, but this process is far slower in other organizations.
Providing encouragement and empowerment: Excellent management is focused on motivating the team. Motivators include providing challenging work, recognizing excellent work, and creating a fair advancement program. Empowerment also means that individuals are well-trained, and allowed to make mistakes during the learning process.

The situation I observed today with my colleague showed that even highly-capable individuals can be slowed down when they do not have the right tools. You have many individuals within your organization that can be top producers, but you must provide the environment for them to succeed.