True or False: "If you want something done, honey, you gotta do it yourself."
I don't particularly follow the awards season for entertainment - the Goldens, Oscars, Academies, Emmys, they all kind of blur together for me into just so much background noise.
One year, something did get through and made me sit up and take notice - Reese Witherspoon's acceptance speech for Glamour's Woman of the Year, way back in 2015. At the time, she represented what so many of us were feeling at the time.
In a line she shared from her mama, Reese said, "If you want something done honey, you gotta do it yourself."
At the time, I wanted to raise my glass in a cheers, like so many other women, with a *clink, clink* to that. Now, with some wisdom and some more time under my belt, I question how much that phrase has defined women as leaders.
If you want something done, you gotta do it yourself.
Watching a movie with my grandkids, I heard the same line, a little differently in the movie, Robots: "See a need, fill a need."
While seeing gaps in the market, the need to be filled, is an inherent part of business, it's also part of who we are as women. Rarely do we see our children or grandchildren actually asking for something, because we can see it before they ask.
"Are you hungry, baby? Here's a sandwich."
"You look like you need a nap, why don't you go lay down?"
"You sound tired, love, come in and have some tea."
We've grown up, and gone through our entire lives, seeing a need and, for most of us, immediately moving to fill it. We carry that relational worldview into the workplace - we literally can't help it.
In the workplace, however, just like at home, it can quickly foster resentment.
Instead of, "am I the only person who can see the dishes?" its, "Am I the only person who can see this mess?"
Instead of, "Am I the only person who can see the trash overflowing?" it's, "Am I the only person who can see the trainwreck this deal is becoming?"
This feeling of being the only one, inevitably builds resentment and frustration, which leads to caring less and less about your work. It leads to burnout and disillusionment.
Did you know that hyperindependence, this need to do everything yourself, because if you don't do it, it won't happen, is actually a reaction to trauma?
If you don't let anyone else do it, then there's no one to inevitably let you down, break your trust, or embarrass you. That drive, to not ask for help, to just do it yourself, just get it done yourself... that's being driven by a desire to avoid more pain.
So, that brings us back to Reese's speech - "If you want something done, honey, you gotta do it yourself."
There's a certain level of truth in that, and also a certain level of balance required. Your unique life experiences have also given you a unique perspective, to be able to see unique needs around you.
Take, for example, the father of a paralyzed little girl. He wanted to still be able to go for a walk with his daughter, but none of the supplies on the market allowed him to do that. So, he built special covers he could slip on his shoes. His daughter's feet were able to slip onto the inside of these covers. Once she was strapped in safely using a harness over his shoulders, he was able to "walk" her down the street.
His desire to share something with her, and his frustration with her pain, allowed him to see a unique need he, as an engineer, was uniquely qualified to fill.
Your experiences have allowed you to see and identify needs. As a leader, work to, and surround yourself with, others who can not only see the needs, but are absolutely fearless in asking questions about those needs.
"Who else sees this?"
"What can be done?"
"Who is being affected?"
"How long has this been going on?"
And my absolutely favorite one: "When can we get started?"
It's going to take a team, and that's okay. Just because you can do it by yourself, doesn't mean you have to.
It also doesn't mean that it can't be better to share the journey with others.