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The mechanic and his hammer

Le mécanicien et son marteau

What does an old mechanic have to do with learning to delegate?

You probably know the story of the old mechanic called to the rescue by the captain of a large ship, whose engine no one was able to repair. After a careful observation of the machine, the mechanic finally takes a small hammer out of his tool kit, and strikes at a specific place on the engine. It then starts without any problem. The commander, happy to finally be able to leave, is nevertheless surprised at the exorbitant amount of the bill: “How can a simple hammer blow be worth so much? ” he asks. The old man then explains that if the blow of the hammer is indeed only worth 1% of the bill, the rest corresponds to knowing where to strike.

This story illustrates the value of one person’s know-how and experience. To achieve this simple result, the old man must have spent hours racking his brains repairing engines. He saw passing in front of him all types of engines, breakdowns and complex problems to solve. And if he knew that hitting a sharp blow in a specific place was enough, it was because he had previously hit hundreds of times on hundreds of machines, without success, before finding the right place. It was from his practice, his experience that he had learned and built his expertise.

I use the metaphor of the mechanic with my clients, when they have difficulty delegating. When explaining that “It’s much faster if I do it myself” they choose to do seemingly simple tasks themselves.

And they are right… but not the whole reason. Behind this simple action lie years of experience. A painfully accumulated know-how as in the example of the mechanic.

However, these same people then complain of not having enough time, of being overwhelmed with work. The problem comes precisely from the time wasted on simple tasks, but what is expected of a true leader is that he gives others the means to build their own experience while transmitting to them part of his know how.

Delegating is not only learning to better value your time but also, and above all, transmitting part of your experience.


International Executive and Team Coaching

Jean-François Levy, International Executive Coach cICF certified at PCC level, specializes in Collaborative Leadership. He accompanies the manager internationally "Becoming aware of your talents as a springboard for your personal and professional development..."

Franco-Mexican by birth, he has developed expertise in the organizational development of SMEs and family businesses in Mexico, where he has resided since 2000. Previously, he held executive positions in large companies in England, France and in Brazil, then as director of operations in a family-run SME.

With more than 30 years of experience in intercultural management and mastery of Co-CREATiVE Communication®, he allows leaders to express their personal leadership style while adapting it to the cultural situation of their organization.

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