Have you noticed how much we throw away as a society? It’s never really been my thing, in fact some people call me a hoarder, but I’ve always preferred to fix things rather than throw them away. That goes for people as much as it does the toaster!
Over the years, I’ve got quite good at repairs, and its not just about saving money, I like the whole process. I look at the problem, figure out how the item is supposed to work, and find a way to get it working again. Some may say its faster to just get something new, and I have too much time on my hands if I can manage to do all this, but the thing is, I like the journey. It is never wasted time, because I don’t just end up with a fixed gadget, I learn something new along the way, how it works, why it stopped working and so on. I don’t even like calling out plumbers or mechanics or hiring a builder to do some renovations, I prefer to do it all myself. It takes me longer, for sure, but I get something that just paying someone else can never provide. A learning experience and the sense of satisfaction you get from overcoming those major challenges. Perhaps that is really where it is for me, the satisfaction of the accomplishment. I like to test myself, I like challenges, and I love finding ways to overcome them. In many ways, a broken carburettor on an old car is like a new project in my professional life. I identify the problems, learn how to overcome them, practice that solution and then fix it.
Being able to stand back and say ‘I did that’ is always good. It’s a positive energy, and we can never have enough of that. But I think what is more valuable is the problem solving skill that it helps develop. Leadership involved finding solutions to problems, and like any other skill, practice and training can only make you better at it. By looking to avoid waste and fixing things rather than replacing them, I constantly flex those problem solving skills, in a variety of ways with new challenges that I have never encountered before. I know that is good for me, and of course it has other more practical benefits too. Yes, it saves money, sometimes, but it is worth remembering that sometimes a repair may not be the economical route, but it certainly is the most sustainable. Reducing waste benefits all of us, so beyond the great experience and sense of achievement, fixing things does have value as an approach.
I also mentioned earlier I apply these principles to things and to people, and I want to come back to that. People are complex, we are probably the most complex ‘machine’ ever devised, and as leaders, we should always remember that. Sometimes people are just not the right fit for a team or a specific task, but often they just need a little help to achieve their potential. As leaders, it is our job to provide that support, not throw people away at the first sign of trouble. There will always be those you cannot help, but the majority you can, and like a toaster and broken carburettor, it is well worth the time and effort to do so. Not just for the individual, but for your team or business. Think about it this way, if a leader discards people at the first sign of a problem, what does that say to everyone else? Contrast that with a leader who visibly and openly supports people, helps them overcome their difficulties, achieve their potential and be a productive team member.
Which version is going to have trouble retaining staff?
By looking for ways to help people, avoiding the throwaway approach that is found everywhere and spending time helping individuals, you create a culture of togetherness and positivity that people will want to be a part of. In the long run, that not only keeps your existing team together, it means that you will find it easier to add the best people as you grow.
Sometimes, spending time to fix something is not time wasted, its better for you, and better for your team as well.