When Momofuku Ando passed away recently at age 96, he left behind one of the greatest modern inventions: Ramen Noodles. According to The New York Times, he also left us a great motto to live by: “ Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a life time. Give him Ramen Noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything.”
It is easier to change a structure than to change a person. Have you every experienced an employee you didn’t have to teach? By luck or intention they got in the right spot at the right time and it worked wonderfully. Do you recall when this wasn’t the case? You spent way too much time trying to teach a good person to fit a job they weren’t suited for, all to no avail. Then, as a last ditch effort, you replanted this struggling performer to another position where they grew and produced like okra in August.
When I meet people who are excellent performers they can’t stop talking about how and why they do their work. Then I asked “where did you learn to do that?” They always give credit to some manager who they say “taught me the way”. However, when you look deeper, you learn that this manager of which they speak simply set them up to succeed. Driven by an authentic desire and love for their work, they actually taught themselves the ropes and climbed to the top. The manager just made certain the rope was tight and occasionally jerked it just a bit to make sure they were paying attention.
Effective leaders work hard to bring on people they don’t have to teach. By investing time to understand the true motivation ingrained in each individual, great managers structure things so talented people are challenged, see how their work contributes to the organization and feel they are in control of their career.
Noodle Manager’s Motto: Teach a person the wrong job and he will eat up energy for a long time. Give the right person the right structure and you won’t have to teach them anything. They will teach themselves and produce results so you can spend your time being a leader.
Working journal Entry: When have you acted on this motto? What did you learn? How will you apply what you learned in your leadership and your life today?