I asked my wife today at what age our children have learned to share. Her answer was that children usually learn this in kindergarten because sharing is a social competence that is part of the ability to attend school. And as far as I can remember, that's how it was with us. My children were usually able to share at the age of four or five years. They no longer got all the attention they wanted on their own. They were sharing candy even though they might have preferred to eat it all by themselves. And they didn't argue about who was allowed to play with which toys. Playing together in the sandbox also worked quite well because they shared buckets and shovels. 

So if children can do this so early on, why do experienced managers with leadership responsibilities often start playing sandbox games again at some point?

Long live the functional guideline

In large companies, there are usually clear responsibilities. The individual divisions or departments  create a strategy, develop their own goals, define tasks and even write rules. The regulatory highlight is the functional guideline. It mostly regulates which part of the tasks (or the sandbox) and which resources (or sand toys) may be used by whom. The overstepping of these boundaries or the use of resources from the domain of others must be politely requested. Even if this makes no sense at all.

The obvious meaning is of course productivity and clear responsibilities. The company should avoid duplication of effort in order to work in a structured and cost-efficient manner. Unfortunately, there is often something else at stake, which is to secure or defend one's own area of responsibility against external influence and threats. This is particularly evident when the loss of responsibilities and resources is combated even if it is obvious to the benefit of the company.

Passing on the sand shovel

I have been observing these strategies for 10 years now and for the last ten years, I have been observing that my children have stopped this behavior in kindergarten at some point. So let's all please stop crippling our companies with such childishness and focus on the idea that sharing is a good concept in companies too. So pass the sand shovel on if you don't need it right now. Those who ask nicely will always get it back because sharing is a social competence that is part of the ability to go to school - and an ability to lead even more.

What do you think? Let me know!

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