3 Rules for “Not Helping” Like a Leader

Under-helpful leaders seem distant and uncaring.

Over-helpful leaders encourage irresponsibility and low engagement.

3 rules for “not helping” like a leader:

#1. Don’t fix the mistakes of capable team members.

The operative word is capable. Everyone screws up, unless they always color within in the lines.

If you assigned responsibility that was beyond capability, shame on you. Fix it and move on. If they’re capable, expect them to fix it.

3 exceptions to rule #1:

Don’t be a cold-hearted assassin. Sometimes capable people need help.

  1. It’s cruel to watch good people flounder and drown. Offer help when capable people are pressed beyond capacity. If they can’t meet daily expectations and fix a mistake, lend a hand.
  2. Assign others to help fix someone’s mistake when it develops skills or builds camaraderie.
  3. Help capable people when their spirits are low. Everyone needs encouragement from time to time. When shoulders droop and heads hang, grab an oar.

#2. Don’t offer solutions when others haven’t offered any. 

Quick solutions from you invite helplessness and dependency in others. One reason you’re sick of people coming to you with questions and problems is you offer too many answers.

Sip coffee with “I don’t know”. The sentence, “I don’t know,” is opportunity for someone to figure it out.

Confusion invites exploration and expands thinking in capable people.

When tempted to offer quick solutions, ask:

  1. What do you think?
  2. What have you already tried?
  3. What might work?
  4. Who might know?

“Go figure it out,” is better than, “This is how you do it,” when team members are capable.

#3. Don’t do someone’s job for them.

Ask, “Whose job is this?” before stepping in. 

You’d be surprised how many leaders are doing someone’s work for them.

You limit potential and constrain the future when you do someone’s job for them.

How might leaders “not help” in leaderly ways?