Everything looks easy when someone else does it

Written by Michelle Braden, CEO Posted in Blog

9 Reasons we take other’s mastery of skills for granted

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Have you ever noticed when you observe someone else doing something it usually looks easy? Or have you noticed, when you think of something that needs to be done, you think, “it’s not that big of a deal, it should not take them very long”? I am guilty of this on many occasions; although, at least now I am consciously aware of it.


Whenever someone does something well they make it look easy, whether it is negotiating a deal, public speaking, networking, playing an instrument or making a great cup of coffee. When someone is talented, gifted or well practiced in an area, it just looks easy to the observer. But the truth is, it’s not easy. It takes years of practice to make something look easy – 10,000 hours to become a “master” according to Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers”. So why is it when we know this we still take “mastery” for granted?

There are several reasons we may take a person’s mastery for granted. Here are 9 of them:

  1. They made it look easy so it must be easy
  2. We never try so we do not know how challenging, difficult or time-consuming the task or skill may be
  3. We don’t think the person we are observing is very smart or talented
  4. We overestimate our own abilities
  5. We don’t value or understand the skills and/or talents of person we are observing
  6. We do not appreciate the time that has been committed to develop the skill or talent
  7. We don’t take the time to ask good questions
  8. We don’t take the time to learn and/or practice
  9. We make assumptions

I recently decided to re-finish a ten year old Adirondack chair. If I am really honest with you, I tried to pay my daughter to do it. She is much more patient and talented in this area; however, her schedule did not allow her to take the project on. The truth is I really did not want to do it; however, I did not want to wait so I decided to take it on.

Oh boy! I had no idea what I was getting myself in to. I have seen projects my daughter and her husband have done and the project turned out so impressive; however, I did not ever value the time and skill investment until I had my own experience. I am embarrassed to say, I told my daughter I thought it would only take a few hours to sand down and re-paint. I could not have been more wrong. My husband and I (notice I did recruit him) both have about 10 hours (20 plus hours total) invested in this chair and we are just now finishing up. In fact, tonight as I write this blog we will put this chair back together. The point of this story is not about the Adirondack chair in particular. The point of this story is how we assume things when we do not have experience. If I did not have this recent experience and if my daughter had taken on this project, I would have wondered, “what in the world was taking her so long”. There is an old saying, “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you have walked a mile in their shoes”. This is true with emotions and with work!

Let’s get real and take a close look in the leadership mirror. Have you ever taken the work someone else did for granted? Do you know enough about the project to make the assumptions you are making? If you answered “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second question, what can you do to change this paradigm and appreciate as well as value another’s contributions? What can you do to especially value contributions that are not a naturally gifted or developed area for you? As Steven Covey says in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek to understand before being understood”. Do you have a story you will share with us where you felt taken for granted or a lesson you learned from making assumptions? We value your feedback as we grow in this leadership journey together. Additional reading: The flip side of this coin is when we take for granted all of the years we have practice a trait or skill and expect someone else to perform as well as us without the same time investment. I wrote a blog on this titled, “Am I a Bad Teacher Because I Am Too Smart”. You can read it here: http://msbcoach.com/learn-with-msbc/blog/are-you-a-bad-teacher-because-you-re-too-smart.

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About the Author

Michelle Braden, CEO

Michelle Braden, CEO

Michelle has trained leaders for over 20 years. She is a certified coach and the author of three leadership books Stand OutDare to Make A Difference, and Bottom Lineas well as a thought-leadership contributor to several blogs/publications including: Forbes Coahes Council, Thought Leaders, Lead Change and Leadership Courseware... read more

 

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