On loaning tools and sharing know how

In Facilitating Business, High Touch on June 11, 2011 at 10:47 pm

We're still looking for those needle-nose pliers.

Facilitators as a group are pretty generous lot.  We take pride in helping others achieve their work objectives.  Our facilitator’s toolbox is full and we’ll show you how to use most common tools and problem-solving techniques — so long as you remember where you learned how to use them and give occasional credit where credit is due.

So where should one draw the line when it comes to loaning out a favorite tool and/or freely sharing know how?  Perhaps a personal story is appropriate here …

(My daughter) “Dad, can I borrow your electric drill?”

(Me) “Sure, but why do you need a drill?”

(Daughter) “To make some jewelry from this old watch.”

(Me) “I’m not going to ask you if that’s my old watch.  What else do you think you’ll need?”

(Daughter) “Some needle-nose pliers.”

(Me) “Well, dear, those disappeared the last time you were home working on an art project.  Did you take my pliers to SCAD and leave them at college?”

(Daughter) “Sorry, Dad.  They’re probably in one of those bins I’ve not yet unpacked.  I’ll just go next door to borrow some needle-nose pliers from Mr. Streff.”

(Me) “And you can bet your next honestly earned dollar that you’ll return that tool to Mr. Streff as soon as you’re done with that re-designed watch project, yes?”

(Daughter) “Sure, Dad.”

For the record, some how I got roped into digging up some clamps, a metal punch, ball-peen hammer, and operating that electrical drill.  Those pliers will remain on the work bench until the jewelry-making project is complete and the watch is transformed into a brooch.

So what’s the point and how does this apply to facilitation?

Lesson No#1:  When a tool is potentially dangerous, step up and volunteer to help.  Time permitting, offer to instruct a novice in its safe use so that the next time you have to “drill down” into an issue, the client or group can do so themselves.

Lesson No#2:  Share whatever know how you can with those you assist.  There’s oh-so-much information already available to anyone who’s willing to GOOGLE for it.  Why hold onto information or knowledge as if it’s scarce?  Volunteer it freely.  Get engaged in the exchange of know how with your clients so that the relationship you build will be called upon again when another project requires a professional facilitator.

Lesson No#3:  Keep your drill bits, saw blades, and any other tool well maintained.  Toss out bits that are bent or broken.  Sharpen the saw.  Keep your skills finely tuned.

In short, keep adding tools to your facilitator’s toolbox.  And loan out a tool or technique whenever you think a family member, colleague, client, or neighbor is ready to use it safely.  In the long run it pays to equip your clients with as many tools as they’re capable of using and maintaining for themselves.

Hmmm?  I wonder if I’ll get a new pair of needle-nose pliers on Father’s Day.  I sure do hope my wife doesn’t read this blog.  I’m guessing she might be getting a hand-crafted brooch for her birthday.

  1. Fantastic analogy, John. My question for you regarding no. 2. How do you balance between giving advice when it is unsolicited and “sharing” your knowledge?

  2. Excellent question … Clients and/or colleagues don’t always want to hear unsolicited advice. So I guess what I’m really suggesting is that by being generous with your thoughts you’ll eventually win over the skeptic or the resistant listener. When you think and act from a mind-set of abundance, you’re more likely to be recognized as a “giver” versus a “taker.” Of course one doesn’t have to force an idea or an opinion upon another. I’ve found that leading with a question such as … “Have you considered or thought much about _____?” … will open up folks’ receptiveness to new (and sometimes unsolicited) ideas. Hope this helps. Good luck.

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