How We’ve Discovered Untapped Resources

I was with a client last week and they repeatedly used the word “under-resourced.”  If you’re not Google or Twitter, that statement probably applies to you, right?  We’re all stretched thin in these days of do-more-with-less.  Yet I’ve been blessed by raining-down resources, and perhaps there is relevance for others in the nature of the cloudburst. The first step to let it rain was set aside some MAJOR assumptions about talent and roles.

Work groups are like families.  And families are notorious for squandering resources. Because people get type-cast.  Ann’s a nurturer. Mary’s the artist. Pat’s the athlete. Jimmy’s so funny.  So also at work, people get cast in work-task-roles but also in boxes that frame their temperament, skill-set, etc.

Two months ago our Alpha daughter Kate came to live with us — post-college and post two years serving in City Year Americorps at Cody High School in Detroit.  Had we kept her in her old box — dependent child and tough-minded challenger – we would have missed a whole lot.  Instead, by some measure of luck, our openness and her assertiveness, she brought and we discovered a treasure trove of talent.  Last night she ran the (her) usual weekly family meeting. I’d painted a big whiteboard in our home study, but she created the calendar on it, she pushes us to meet, she reminds us to stay with her, when the three of us with screens and keyboards want to do what we all seem to want to do — our own thing (like on those conference calls where one to three people are talking and five to fifteen have their phones on mute and their fingers on their keyboards).

She has us all taking turns cooking healthy and affordable meals. She has us working out.  She’s put on screen doors and key hooks and cork boards.  And the family system is running incredibly well.

This is not just a family story.  This is about untapped potential.  Kate’s amazing.  And you have amazing people, too; people who haven’t been asked.  People who (unlike Kate) don’t feel it’s safe to step up.  People who don’t feel it’s their role to step up.  This is a classic case of everyday leadership.  Kate is much more the leader at this point than Jennifer or I.  Not just in these ways of planning and execution.  But also in leading us through change. She’s helping us adapt; for instance, seeing her younger brother as needing freedom and responsibility, support and acceptance, rather than to be pushed and cajoled.

Habits and roles and status are incredibly powerful forces.  And they can stand in the way of real change.  Maybe we need to take down some walls and give away some power to

Lead with our best self,


  • Good one, Dan! And consider the enormous underutilized resources of another group–people with disabilities. Why? Because uninformed people see an apparent disability in an individual who is not empowered by appropriate assistive technology, accommodations, and support, and respond with fear, characterizing the individual as “some poor slob” worthy of pity, not a job. Imagine how much the world would have lost if that’s the way people had responded to Steven Hawking, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan? I could go on!!!

    When will we learn, as the Americans with Disabilities Act observes, that “Disabilities are a NATURAL PART OF THE HUMAN CONDITION”? That disabilities are not pitiable or contagious, they’re just something that’s exacerbated by disabling environments? The glass isn’t half empty, it’s the wrong size glass for some people!

    There’s a reason why people with disabilities who want a job experience a 70% unemployment rate, and it’s not for lack of ability. It’s because of a barrier that’s way difficult to remove–the one between people’s ears!!! End the stigma and be blessed with a raft of underutilized resources.

    • Pilgrim Norma – Thank you. We involve folks of all abilities who want to help another in our mission to support independent living of seniors and those with disabilities. Blessings to you.

  • I wondered where you were going as the article began, and was pleased with what you wrote today. I have experienced the joy of giving opportunities to folks I “think” would achieve greatness by saying “Yes.” Some have and they go beyond any expectations on my part, achieving greatness possibly in ways they have never considered. Thanks.

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