In the 1970’s, a guy named Jacob Kounin verbalized something kind of creepy we’d always known to be true of our teachers: They have eyes in the back of their head.

Well, the good ones anyway. Kounin’s word for this concept was “Withitness”, which is essentially the teacher’s seemingly innate ability to always know what is going on in the classroom.  Withitness is of course much less natured than it is nurtured, and every rookie teacher figures out pretty quickly that classroom management involves many tasks. But more important than actively looking around to spot trouble, a great teacher, according to Kounin, creates the perception among students that he or she is always in the know. In other words,

a teacher doesn’t have to be Hawkeye…the students just have to believe that he or she is.

Eyes in the back of the head? Obviously not. Aware of everything in the environment? Of course. And that’s the gist of Withitness.

I’m no Jacob Kounin, but I am going to suggest a new word to describe great team members: Figureitoutiveness. In fact, I think the argument could be made that this is a skill that is valued by employers and colleagues in any industry, organization, or ministry. Here’s my definition:

Figureitoutiveness – The acquired skill of relentlessly self-developing in order to expand the role one stewards.

Lots of big words there. Let me simplify it a little: It’s the ability a person develops through personal drive to figure things out on their own. Figureitoutiveness. Here’s what it means:

  • It is Acquired: This is not a skill we necessarily bring to the table when we first arrive on the scene of our organization. It is at some point a new ability, an attained status in which we would be insulted to be held by the hand and shown what to do. Bill Engler said it this way: “We are of limited value to an organization if we don’t grow out of the role for which we were hired. Be versatile, get noticed.”

It is not a stubborn refusal to learn but rather the insistence to be self-taught rather than spoon-fed.

I ought to figure it out because I insist that I do so.

  • It is Relentless: The personal drive to learn new skills, conquer difficult tasks, and pursue “what could be” never lets up for a person with Figureitoutiveness. Although time and energy are exhaustible, working tirelessly to wrap the mind around something new doesn’t end at sunset. I ought to figure it out because it will keep me awake not to do so.
  • It is Self-developing: The best person to lead you is…you. Figureitoutiveness is not a skill anyone else can ever teach you. It is personal digging in, personal investment, and personal growth that must be self-taught and self-evaluated. Only you can answer the question of whether you are really leading yourself well. I ought to figure it out because it reflects upon me as an individual.
  • It is Expanding: Regardless of position, job description, or salary, the influence we have been given was never meant to be limited. The seemingly insurmountable confines of the money, physical space, or resources that surround a job can’t hold a candle to the creativity God placed in the human mind. I ought to figure it out well because God made me to do so.

What constrains us is not really time, money, or buildings but rather the willingness to surrender who we are to what we do for a living.

  • It is Stewardship: That chair you hold down at work each day could just as easily be filled by someone else. It is only by God’s grace that we get to fill it instead of the next person, so it remains with us to fill it well. When I minimize my influence, stop developing my potential, or fail to contribute something original to the equation, I’m giving greater credence to the truism that no one is indispensable. Create the illusion that you would be missed. I ought to figure it out humbly, because if I don’t someone else will have to.

Figure-it-out-ive-ness. Do you have it?

It may not be as cool as eyes in the back of the head, but it is definitely way less creepy…not to mention much more valuable to your organization.