How to Help People Solve Their Problems
Every time you impose your solution on their problem you devalue and degrade others.
Experienced leaders see the world
through their own strengths.
The question isn’t what would you do. The question is what action best suits them. They have their own strengths, not yours.
Accidental arrogance – intentional humility:
Ego makes your way – the one aligned with your strengths – the right way. You wrongly believe everyone is, or should be, like you.
Experienced leaders know too much
and explore too little.
Humility sees the world through their strengths. How can they bring themselves to the challenge? Not! how can they pretend to be you?
New starting place:
Begin with, “Who do you want to be,” not, “What do you want to do.”
Explore problems fully. Let them rise up like sea monsters from the deep. Then ask, “Who do you want to be while facing this monster?”
Who do you aspire to be when:
- Conflicts arise.
- Results surpass expectation.
- Bosses suck.
- Pivotal decisions need made.
- People disappoint.
- New opportunities emerge.
- Projects languish.
New second question:
After asking, “Who do you aspire to be,” ask, “What would that person do?”
Experienced leaders put the inexperienced in the uncomfortable middle by telling them what they would do.
After defining problems,
focus on them not you.
Pressing for their solution makes you inspirational. On the other hand, pressuring people to do what you would do stress you.
People create their own motivation while pursuing their solutions.
What if they can’t find their own solution? Rather than explaining what you would do, explore options.
Bonus tip: Stop owning other peoples problems.
How can leaders navigate the tension between hands on and hands off leadership?
How can leaders bring out the best in others while pursuing great results at the same time?
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Intresting, sometimes helping is letting them figure it out. Teach a man to fish
Fishing is good.
Great post ! A leader has to always understand that to gain compounding value, you need to teach others what you already know by letting them discover their own solutions. Sometimes it is hard to step back and let those processes materialize without the urge to “fix it” yourself and move on to other things. Heavy lifting up front yields a more confident and engaged team. Rescuing only enables lack of judgement and a shallow, needy team.
Thanks Mark. Really enjoy the expression “compounding value” in your comment.
It is challenging to go slow to go fast…but as you indicate it pays off in the the long term.
If we aren’t careful we help people learn how to be helpless.
I love what you’ve just shared. For a very long time I thought that my role as a guide was to provide the solution. I was ‘well-intentioned’ but ego got in my way with statements that started with “why can’t they get it?” “it” of course meaning “my way.” Thankfully I now KNOW better and understand that growth is an inside out process.
Before asking “who would you like to be?” I’d first ask “who are you?” So many times people don’t recognize their own gifts, talents, strengths and feel that they must improve and become someone else before they can effectively navigate their lives. I think most of us provide solutions as a short-cut to wading through the pain and messiness that might arise. We attempt at expediency and what we get is stress, cockily trumpeting “why am I the only person THINKING around here? Why do I have to solve everything?” lol.
Hopefully your post today will open doors just enough so that we could see ourselves and realize that we don’t need to solve, just facilitate others as they solve things on their own.
Thanks Giselle. Great add.
I also like, “What’s important to you?”
Thanks for sharing your experience. I think the greatest gift experienced leaders give the inexperienced is confidence, not solutions.
Well based on my experience this is scary mistaken, scary.
Ego is the problem. Experienced Leaders see the world through their own brokenness, their own humanity. This opens the way to empathy. Without empathy you are nothing but an arrogant fool.
Begin with getting your own house in order. You cannot transmit to others what u do not have. You cannot teach others to do what you have not done .
Now for 78 years the 12 Steps have been available to help spiritual beings in their human experience. Millions have recovered from Ego-based living. It is a design for living that brings about a Spiritual Awakenking.
There from what I googled 200 other 12 Step Fellowships to help with other qualifiers. There is not a person reading this blog who can’t qualify for one of them.
If you are ready to stop messing around and work with something that works everytime for everyone who follows the suggestions then you are ready to take certain steps.
You ain’t got a problem a Spiritual Solution can’t solve. No spiritual being having a human experience does. If you think you do Wowza are you in deep trouble. Some just are not aware of that fact yet that all solutions are Spiritual.
Bring out the best in others by example. Bring out the best in you and you inspire others. Attract, do not promote, don’t work.
Or just keep trying to solve problems with ego whose only job is to keep you feeding the beast. Ego is the beast.
Just like my experience recovering daily from a terminal, chronic, progressive disease for over 29 years.
SP back to the present!!!
I’m focusing, not so much on transmitting what we know, but bringing out what they know. I find this skill takes patience and humility.
Well Dan that is precisely what I am talking about.
I am sharing to bring out what they know FIRST you got to understand how to bring out what you know.
I grew up skiing. It is terrifying to start. Very easy to learn but not for the fear.
Now if I was to teach technically, all you do is bend your knees, wanna go left? Brush back your right heel like a paintbrush outwardly. Want to go right? Brush out left heel. Wanna stop? Brush out both heels at the same time?
Simple till you add the cold, wind, snow, FEAR!!!!!!
Till I EXPERIENCED learning how to bring out the courage that made the FEAR skeesaddle I had NO WAY of understanding how or even if I knew how to teach others to do it.
If I had not learned how to do it myself, the inner conversation, the shaking of the body in fright, all of it there is NO WAY on Gods Green Earth I would have been able to help guide others through the mental process of overcoming those fears.
People bringing forth their best is a journey in their conscious thought.
If I have not done THAT myself I got no frame of reference.
I cannot transmit to others what I have not done myself, the mental process of it, period. Neither can anyone else.
People who walk through this discovery process have to Trust to do so. When I am able to say, Hey, I know how scary and real it SEEMS but it is all crap!!!!! I did it, you can too, let me show u how I did it!!!!! I got FREE, you can too!!!
Then skiing is simply bending knees, brushing heels, keeping ones balance and the technique works all the time everywhere under all conditions. Great Fun after going through the mental process of letting the fear go and letting the body follow the simple directions.
I remember being a ski instructor and terrified folks after an hour with me saying, Scott this is all there is to this?????
Yep that was all there was but I could not teach anyone NOTHING I had not already taught myself.
We are 3 dimensional creatures, mind, body, spirit. When teaching have to address all three.
If I have not matured enough to understand this my teaching will be severely lacking in its effectiveness.
Just my opinion based on my experience teaching 100’s of gods terrified kids to be free on skis.
This or keep trying to feed the ego instead of surrendering to its illusions.
SP back to the present
Great thoughts, Dan. During best-practices sharing, it’s OK to walk people through your strategy or approach with its strengths and challenges. When you’re guiding someone through something, though, one-on-one, you’re right! We’ve got to lead that person to the solution that will work for THEM, not what might have worked for US.
One of the things this posts lacks is how to give advice or share your knowledge. Thanks for adding “best-practice sharing.”
Love this post. My favorite for students is…
“Who do you want to be?” NOT “What do you want to do?”
That’s great. We are not our profession. We create who we want to be everyday.
Thanks for this,
I enjoy the idea of creating ourselves. We are who we are but we also grow into who we want to be through our choices and behaviors. LOoking at it this way gives power to leadership development. .
Great post, I once worked for a CEO while working as the head of IT. I was taught by the industry to “establish requirement from stakeholders” to ensure IT was aligned with the business. Every budget cycle I would ask the CEO and the C level what they need so I could develop the budget. Each time the CEO would reply “what should we have”. At first I found his lack of direction frustrating. After more follow up with the CEO he said “if i tell you what i think we should have, it will limit us of what we will achieve based on only my perspective. If you tell me what we should have i can determine if the value for the business is worth the investment, and it will yield greater innovation and value.”. That statement flipped the light bulb in my head. An example of CEO creating an innovative organization.
Great great great!!!!
That CEO shared from his WEAKNESS, knowing he did not know!!!!!
Trusted you enough to figure it out!!! Challenged you to do so!!!
Exactly what I am talking about!
Not arrogantly telling you from their illusion of ego-centric strength!!!!
Thank you for the perfect example of what I was talking about.
Coming from strength, that is just so re-dic-o-lus I can’t even tell ya!!
It isn’t often times what you think you know, it is what you think you know that just ain’t so!!!!!!
True learning only starts when one knows they don’t know! Then one can start the trail of finding out.
None of us have been at this exact moment before!!! So enter the moment in divine glorious ignorance!!!!!
Then all possibilities are options!!!!!!
Awesome stuff THANK YOU MIKE!!!!!
SP back to my present moment gloriously ignorant and open to the possibilities!!!!
Thanks for a great story, Mike. It’s always encouraging to hear stories where leaders are tapping the strengths of their team. Your CEO had enough confidence to know he needed to know what you knew.
The “sage on the stage” philosophy is overrated and outdated; bring everyone into the era of the “guide on the side.”
Yours was a refreshing post to read on a busy Monday morning, and the image made me smile, too.
Smiling in Virginia, USA,
Love the expression “sage on the stage/guide at the side” very cool
This piece is resonating on several levels for me this morning. The “Who do you want to be while facing this monster?” concept is going to be hugely useful for one member of my team in particular. My challenge is leading away from the negativity of the past in order to create a positive future. Some folks want to jump right to ‘policy’ and ‘procedure’ before addressing people first. “Who do you want to be” will help. Any other thoughts?
As always, I appreciate your insight.
Thanks Steve. I think we rush to solve too quickly and in so doing we lose ourselves. Leadership grows emptier and emptier the more distant WE are from what we do.
I find asking “who do we want to be” from an organizational perspective yields useful insights as well.
Your observation about negativity is nearly universal. Ask people what they want or like and they tell you what they don’t want and don’t like. Moving the conversation to positive affirmations takes time. We have to wade through the darkness of what we don’t want before we emerge into the light of what we want.
Sadly, we often get stuck trying to solve the darkness rather than creating the light.
My computer anti-virus (Avast!) flashed a Red Warning when I clicked on the link to readitforme…and now has blocked your site completely.
Anyone else mention a Malware warning regarding the readitforme website?
Thanks for your wisdom,
“Achieving success is done by healing all that stands in its way.”
Terry McGill http://www.IWillHealMyself.com
That sounds terrible. I’m not having any issues. I’ll send you the readitforme email address…perhaps they can help.
Love this post Dan! This has always been challenging for me because, well, I know everything (just kidding – I only think I do too often) I always want to fix problems.
I think it can also be helpful to implement systems that reduce the dependency on a leader and encourages people to solve more problems on their own.
For instance, clear core values can be used to empower people to make more decisions on their own, using the values as a guide.
Also, we can make it clear which decisions need our approval and let people know that all others can be decided by them, provided the solution doesn’t violate our core values.
Have you read Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer? Great read! I highly recommend it. He talks a lot about this.
I think as parents we need to do this and your last post, after all as parents we are leaders.
Dan, thanks for writing this. It is so difficult to not give what I call ‘unsolicited advice’.
Good leaders care about their people and want them to succeed. It seems faster to share a solution and solve the problem for the person you are working with. Long-term, that is a flawed strategy.
It’s flawed because you aren’t empowering the other person to really think about what needs to be done. You also point out, as a Surprising Benefit, that people create their OWN motivation while pursuing THEIR solutions.
Unless we want to continually be thinking for our people and motivating our people we have to change our behavior in ways that create environments for those things to eventually happen without us being there.
Leaders that don’t develop other leaders are blind to something in their own behavior (and thinking) that is holding the process back. Asking the right questions and asking for solutions are great technical steps in the right direction.
Your article is a great reminder and this area is something I need to be reminded of often!
Thanks Dave. If we think for them, they won’t think for themselves! Powerful and true. People tend to follow the suggestions of those over them. It’s just they things are. Thanks for sharing your insights.
Great eye opening post. For many years I got ahead by being results oriented. Results oriented was a trait which many companies value. This forces you to be the “fixer”. The person to go to to get the job done. Your post has opened my eyes to helping others get results and fix things by using their own power and creativity. I just need to lose the ego and help them along the way. I’ve started with open ended questions and helping others find the answers within themselves. This will create less stress and hopefully more connection with people.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us..I have learnt.a lot from your post…stay blessed!!
This post is a great example of “coaching” at its best! It is hard work to retrain your brain not to rush to share what you would do in the same situation. Asking questions to direct the conversation in terms of exploring options or solutions is a good place to start. Even as parents, if we want our kids to grow up to be independent thinkers, we have to guide them to their own solutions because they often turn a deaf ear to our “suggestions.” Employees, students, etc. are no different.
I love this thanks
I have gained a new perspective on helping others by using the “who do you want to be or who do you aspire to be” instead of ” you “NEED or SHOULD” do this. It is hard not owning or trying to over take other peoples problems. I will defentily keep this in mind when helping others going forward. Might take sometime as bad habits are hard to break.
Dan, nicely put. Often when someone is going through a similar struggle, we as leaders/consultants want to tell that person exactly what to do. Like you said, this may not be ideal because that person brings a totally different skill set to the table.
Reblogged this on IspiratO and commented:
A must read!!
Another great post, sharing it now. As a coach I fully endorse your point about ” The question isn’t what would you do. The question is what action best suits them. They have their own strengths, not yours.” as well as ” who do you want to be”. These are powerful ways to move people towards bringing out the best in themselves.
Dan, you got me with this one. I’m use the “what would you do?” and “here’s how I would do it” phrases regularly. The latter I use when I notice they aren’t coming with options or are stuck with the “I don’t know what to do look”.
Going to have to think more about this topic “Who do you want to be? And what would that person do?”
I like it. Most definitely going to blog about it.
Dan! This is great! You have made a fan out of me. I am learning that I must retire my position as general manager of the world and allow others to find their own solutions.
Dan.. totally agree! BE always comes before DO and DO always comes before HAVE. Unfortunately many of us live life in the wrong sequence: HAVE-DO-BE. We are so focussed on what we want to HAVE that we forget who we need to BE or how we need to reinvent ourselves – FIRST – before getting what we want.. Keep inspiring!
Thanks Milind. All I can say is wow! The Be-Do-Have sequence vs. the Have-Do-Be sequence rocks my world.