In 1885, Peter Carl Fabergé, a goldsmith and jeweler, volunteered to create a jewelry egg for Czar Alexander III of Russia to give to his wife, Marie, at Easter. He kept the egg a secret until the special day and then presented it to the czar, who then presented it to his wife. It was a rather ordinary looking egg, somewhat large with a plain whitish shell. But when the czarina opened it, she found inside several tiny surprises made of gold, enamel and precious gems. The gift delighted his wife so much that Alexander commissioned a new one to be created every Easter. Each egg, lavishly and creatively decorated and always with a surprise inside, typically took a year or longer to create. They became so popular that when Czar Nicholas II took the throne, Fabergé began making two eggs each year – one for the Czar’s wife and one for his mother.
Today, we know of 56 of these eggs, though a few of them have disappeared. The last Fabergé Imperial Egg to go on auction was sold for $9.57 million at Christie’s in April 2002. It’s no wonder Fabergé Eggs have become synonymous with anything that we consider to be a priceless possession, something to be handled with utmost care.
As leaders, we sometimes treat some of our responsibilities like Fabergé Eggs. We won’t delegate them to our team members because we are so afraid that they will drop them. This can be especially true with projects or tasks that we started ourselves. We carefully put them together; we tweaked and fine-tuned; we polished and shined them until they were perfect. And though a team member or two has shown interest in taking them off our hands, we continue to clutch them possessively. And who could blame us? No one will take care of our Fabergé Egg like we will.
While that may be true, we’ve got to get up the courage to pass the Egg along. While creating it brought us new skills and knowledge, the Egg can no longer help us develop. Its value now is in passing it along to allow others to gain skills and knowledge as they care for it. And even if they drop it, there are lessons to be learned in that, as well. (After all, you probably dropped it a few times as you were creating it. How do you think you learned to care for it so well?) All eggsperts were once beginners.
What’s your Fabergé Egg? Pick someone who needs the skills it teaches, and pass it along. It will free your hands up to start working on your next creation.