Barry Sanders, arguably the greatest running back to every play football, never spiked the ball when scored a touchdown. He simply handed it back to the official as if it was no big deal. This lack of fanfare and bravado let everyone know that he had made this trip to the end zone before and was planning to return sometime soon. Barry Sanders is a go-to-guy. He gets things done without a lot of flash.
You may have a go-to-guy in your life. They seem to appear just when you need them – Shazam – it’s Captain Marvel. OK, so they might not have well coiffed hair (or any hair at all) and they might not be as well turned out as a comic book superhero but they do possess special powers that help you do what needs to be done. Perhaps they are that seemingly ordinary team member that always delivers the goods like that very useful engine Thomas the train. Or maybe they patiently coach your kid’s soccer team with all the understated panache of Farmer Hoggett – “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.” It could be your go-to-guy has all the charm of old blood and guts General George Patton who encourages your timid daughter to fight back when the bullies come around. Go-to-guys appear in the most uncomely forms and in the most unlikely ways. Yet, they share one thing in common – they are here to help you.
My 80-year-old Dad is the still the go-to-guy in my family. Someone who is a little short this month, or needs to be sprung from a scrape with the law or simply requires some sound advice – give the ball to Dad. He knows the way because he has seen some hard times himself and understands what it’s like being on the wrong side of things. No, there won’t be hugging or greeting card sentiments. Any whining will bring you a strong dose of, “Tough it out, Tinkerbelle,” talk in colorful and coarse language. What you will get is his very best. Ironically, he will never give the same to himself. Go-to-guys never do. Married for sixty years to the love of his life, my Dad has even managed to thwart my Mom’s diabolical plan to slowly drive him insane.
Love is unconditional but lack of effort or performance is decidedly not. Slackers will be called out and pretenders will be unmasked. These will happen at the most inopportune time and in the most indecorous ways. Go-to-guys seem to always be on the job even when they are yelling at the television as if the half-witted coach can hear him or on location covering for some screw up of a confused junior associate or power napping with the dog in an overstuffed chair that could seat the entire infield of the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s not that they constantly pull the plow like their forefathers but rather that they are semper vigilans as they say in the Air Force – forever vigilant.
Of course not all Dads are go-to-guys and vice versa. You may have had an abusive father or maybe one who was absent. I’m genuinely sorry to hear it. We live in an age where fatherhood as a social and economic institution is optional all around. More so, we now have many fathers who were raised without a father of their own to show them what works and doesn’t. Some young men even confuse machismo with responsibility. Any deadbeat can hold a pistol but most can’t hold a job. For all of our social engineering, the absence of the patriarchal role is trending in an ominous and potentially irreversible way – the rising role of gangs as a substitute for the family unit, the abandonment of unplanned children and unwanted mothers and even the unchecked egoism of the immature pater familias who puts himself first and foremost is becoming ever more commonplace.
Our children have different gender roles than we do. Good for them. It’s about time. We need some new ideas and ways of doing things together. Yet, somewhere in the mix let’s agree to leave a little room for our NextGen go-to-guys.
How to support your go-to-guy:
- Let them do their job: Go-to-guys want to be useful but can be socially awkward. If you need help respectfully ask them for it. And don’t pester them as they soldier on.
- Let them put you first: Go-to-guys call a cab for you while they stay with the car and wait for the tow truck. In case you are a little slow on the uptake be sure to acknowledge that this is their way of showing you that they care.
- Let them grouch: Go-to-guys believe that their world is inhabited by incompetent idiots: Contractors, lawyers, government officials and the lot. Let them go on about how the other guy messed it all up and how it’s now up to them to work around the stupidity to set things straight.
- Let them keep it real: Tell them the whole emotional and complicated mess of your story. They will ask a few insensitive questions and come up with a couple of objective things to do to get the ball rolling now.
- Let them know you appreciate them: Excessive gratitude is unwanted. That’s for rookies. Just remember to say thank you and mean it. That’s how it’s done.
It goes without saying that there are go-to-gals if we can use this an innocuous term in such a linguistically charged age. As for that, I doubt that even the talented Barry Sanders has the skill to play at the hall-of-fame level that women do every season.
So this Father’s Day you might want to skip the celebration, the touchdown dance or even the knuckle-bump. Just let him know that he is your go-to-guy. That’s all he really wants anyway. Happy Father’s Day.
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JEFF DEGRAFF is a professor, author of Innovation You: Four Steps to Becoming New and Improved, speaker and advisor to hundreds of the top organizations in the world. He is called the “Dean of Innovation” because of his influence on the field. To learn more about Jeff and his work on innovation please visitwww.jeffdegraff.com. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffDeGraff and Facebook @deanofinnovation.