You sincerely want to help, but what if you employ strategies and habits that cause harm.
Sincerity doesn’t erase incompetence.
Portraits of lousy helpers:
When time allows, step back and let people struggle with their own challenges and problems.
4 benefits of struggle:
- Grit. Struggle strengthens. Over-protection propagates weakness.
- Openness. When people feel the challenge of struggle, it opens them to receive help. Learning moments often come slowly.
- Respect for help. Quick interventions feel degrading to recipients.
Helping elevates perceived self-worth but lowers the status of others. It’s not helpful to make others feel less competent when you want them to boldly take ownership.
Expert helpers need others to do exactly as they’re told. In the end, dependency develops.
The goal of helping is getting to the place where helping isn’t needed.
3 Tips for humble helpers:
#1. Define help.
There’s a difference between the ‘presenting’ problem and the real concern. Someone might come to you with the ‘presenting’ problem that concerns production.
After some exploration, you might discover that the real problem is fear of bringing up sensitive issues.
It doesn’t help to solve a ‘presenting’ problem while the real issue lurks in the shadows.
Don’t assume you know what help looks like. Maybe they need you to listen, but not solve. Sometimes help is connecting people with experts or resources.
#2. Ask, “What have you tried?”
3 reasons to explore what they’ve tried:
- Send the signal that they are responsible. You share their concern, but the challenge or problem is still theirs.
- Respect their efforts to meet the challenge or fix the problem.
- Eliminate irrelevant suggestions.
#3. Generate options.
NEVER offer potential solutions before competent persons generate their own.
You give power and elevate status when you generate a list of options and ask, “Which would you like to try?”
What makes leaders lousy helpers?
How might leaders become more effective helpers?