Thimbles, Dixie Cups and Pitchers

“My job is to keep everyone’s vessel full. Some people have a thimble, some have a pitcher. But it’s my job to keep them all full.”  Dave Bell, manager at my first tech writing job

thimbleAs a manager, I know that’s easier said than done unless everyone on your team is equally talented and skilled. That’s not the case on most teams, including mine, but I’ve never forgotten the conversation, and it’s one of my workplace goals.

Our jujitsu class is comprised of students ranging from new white belts to seasoned black belts. During class, Kyoshi used these phrases:

  • We’re going to start with this lock. Now if you’re new, do this…
  • Advanced students, try it this way…
  • If you’re advanced I want to see a takedown and side lock flow.
  • If you’re still learning the technique, I just need this…

Kyoshi set us to work and then circulated among the groups, encouraging the new students and challenging the more advanced students. He’d break down the techniques when they were unfamiliar, and smooth them out when they were more practiced.pitcher (2)

As I observed, the light bulb went on. Not at the techniques, but at how the instructor was leading the class.

I realized Dave Bell’s philosophy was as pertinent to a learning environment as it is to the business environment. Because at the end of the class, all vessels were full – the thimbles, the Dixie cups, and the pitchers.

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