Imagine this: You plan to remodel your office, update your home, or need an emergency roof repair.
Would you hire a contractor who only had a hammer? What if he had invented a super hammer, suitable for all shingles? What if she is the best-selling Book of Hammers author with a PhD in Malletology who promises never-seen-before nail-pounding productivity?
I’m being silly to make a point: Sometimes, a hammer hits the nail on the head, but other situations call for specialty tools. Master builders rely on more than a hammer to tackle complicated projects.
Why shouldn’t it be the same for consultants, coaches, human resources professionals and others claiming mastery in leadership development or talent management?
Often, organizations pound away at every “growth opportunity” with the same blunt instrument. They may be attached to a “proprietary, transformational” tool in which they have invested big bucks. Or they’ve contracted with one executive coach for years, without offering choices to leaders who may have different learning styles.
Equally often, service providers (consultants, coaches, training or talent development firms) rely too heavily on the model they learned or invented. If they are certified in a method, or licensed to sell an assessment, they may not be open to different or complementary approaches.
I’ve had significant experience with widely used psychometric profiles, assessments, models, certification programs, leadership theories, and the like. Some are very helpful in specific situations. Others are outdated, poorly designed, or reflect their authors’ lack of real-world understanding.
When asked about my model or process, here’s my reply: I use more than one! I have favorites, and like an accomplished woodworker, I know which chisel is most likely to carve out the desired result. Yet I’m always curious about gizmos and gadgets that might make me better at my craft.
It’s my business to learn about promising new tools, and it’s my responsibility to use discernment about the “latest and greatest” trends (they may over-promise and under-deliver). Also, it’s important to recognize when dull, rusty implements must be sharpened, replaced, or supplemented.
I advocate exploring options and making a wise choice for best fit. The process begins with common sense questions, e.g., what might work best for this person, in this circumstance, in this organization?
Our rapidly changing global business environment requires a sophisticated understanding of learning modalities or leadership skills development methods. Savvy professionals know a particular approach may help some of the people, some of the time, yet is unlikely to work for all. Doesn’t it make sense to offer several excellent resources rather than limiting and narrowing the growth path?
Abraham Maslow had it right: human beings are complex, evolving individuals who can’t be “fixed” with one tool. We are more likely to reach our potential with a complete toolkit. To build something great, put down your favorite hammer and learn how to use a wrench, drill, or saw!