I greatly enjoy putting together jigsaw puzzles. I have started the habit of always having a puzzle in progress on a table in the basement where I iron my clothes. While the steam is heating up so I can iron, I spend a few minutes working on the puzzle. If any of you have spent much time working on jigsaw puzzles, you know that the intent (and sometimes the frustration) is that you have to put the right pieces in the right places to complete the puzzle. You may try to force the wrong piece in a place but it will not work. Even if you tried to recut the piece to fit the place, the puzzle will never be complete and you will only end up running into troubles later in the project.
While all of this makes sense when we are talking about jigsaw puzzles, for some reason many people fail to realize this simple truths in other aspects of life. Each person has been created different. Like a jigsaw puzzle piece, each person has its own unique shape and its own unique combinations. This was not by accident. In a puzzle, the pieces are all uniquely shaped so they will fit exactly where they are needed in the puzzle. In life, each person is created uniquely so the individual will fit exactly where needed. The unique shapes allow for connecting with others and contributing to the whole design. It is a brilliant plan by an awesome creator.
Yet time and time again, we try to thwart the plan. We try to force people into roles and give them tasks they were never intended to have. We trim them down or try to add bulk to them to fit into the places we want them to be. In the process, we destroy the unique combination of gifts and abilities with which the person was created. We also set up our organizations, churches, and communities for inevitable failure. Because just as I mentioned in regards to the puzzle, down the road we are going to find that the changing we have forced will create other problems.
It is imperative for leaders and individuals to accept a few important realities:
- Each person is created in a unique and wonderful way.
- Each person has an important role to play in the big puzzle of life and our organizations.
- Each person is uniquely created so that they can fit in the right place and connect in the right way to bring completeness.
- When a person is forced into the wrong place or modified to fit the space, it destroys who the person truly is and creates larger problems that will have to be faced eventually.
- Leaders must look at the unique combination of personality, gifts, and abilities in a person and help lead that person to their correct spot in the whole puzzle.
A jigsaw puzzle can be a lot of fun. Life and leading organizations can be a lot of fun. But both take time and a commitment to putting the right pieces in the right place.