The Dangers of Helping: Are you too Helpful

The goal of helping is enabling, not more helping.

Over-helpful leaders are over-worked and under-appreciated. Help in ways that strengthen competency and don’t create dependency.

Train people to help each other, BEFORE they come to you for help.

You’re too helpful:

  • If people constantly beat a path to your door, you help too much. It might feel good to be needed, but maybe you’re just needy.
  • If people constantly need your approval before they take initiative, you’ve helped too much in the past.
  • If “your way” is always the “best way”, you help too much. Brains shut down when everything must be done your way.

3 ways to help like a leader:

#1. When someone asks for help, ask, “What have you tried?” Never help a competent person who hasn’t tried something already, unless you want to validate lazy helplessness.

#2. When someone asks for suggestions, ask, “What options have you developed?”

#3. When someone asks, “What do you think?”, ask them what they think.

Novice vs. expert:

  • Protect novices from harm.
  • Novices don’t see the impact of their actions on others. “Your action here is impacting another team over there.”
  • Novices respect you when you help. Experts resent intervention.

The difference between a novice and an expert is experts know how to find answers. Novices flounder.

Help when:

  1. Threats are novel.
  2. Staff feels confused. Successful leaders help when they create clarity. Clarity enables action. Tiptoeing around confusion blocks performance.
  3. You see the big picture, but they’re lost in the weeds.

The one reason:

Useful help takes people to the place where they don’t need your help. Any other reason is a dead end.

  1. Doing things “for” someone doesn’t help.
  2. Doing things “with” someone helps as long as they grow.
  3. Letting them struggle helps as long as they’re making adequate progress.

How do you determine when it’s time to help?

Do you tend to help too much or too little?

Bonus material:

The Manager Who Helped too Much (LF)

7 Simple Habits for Becoming a More Helpful Person (Inc)