Have you Fallen into the Destructive Practice of Offering Harmful Help
Harmful help looks like…
- Not doing your own job because you’re doing other people’s jobs.
- Bottlenecking results.
- Resentment toward people who should be helping themselves and others.
- Disappointment because you helped someone, but they didn’t help you in return.
- Creating disillusionment and frustration when you finally say no.
- Prolonging incompetence. Every time you do someone’s job for them, you tell them they are incompetent.
The goal of helping is enabling, not more helping.
Avoid harmful help by helping less:
You enjoy helping. It feels useful. You feel important. But coddlers promote incompetence.
Successful leaders call people to do hard things.
False compassion protects team members from necessary adversity and distress.
Let people struggle.
The goal is useful help, not being a heartless jerk. Don’t walk away when people sink in the deep end. But…
Never offer help until you ask, “What have you tried?”
Help people find meaning in difficulty.
“Man is primarily reaching out for meaning.” Viktor Frankl
Frankl believed that suffering for something enabled people to find meaning.
Successful leaders give meaning to difficulty by defining purpose.
Questions for those facing difficulty or adversity:
- Why take on this difficult task?
- How might this challenge serve you?
- How might this challenge equip you to face future challenges?
- Who is helped if you successfully navigate this challenging situation?
Show respect for people’s competence by expecting them to lean into headwinds.
The gap between what he is and what he ought to be…must be endured. Viktor Frankl
Help for novices:
Help novices create a safety net. Don’t do it for them. Create a safety net with them.
What do we need to put in place that will enable you to lean into this new challenge?
What are some dangers of helping too much?
How might leaders help less and still lead with heart?
The Dangers of Helping: Are you too Helpful | Leadership Freak
Are You an Over-Giver? | Psychology Today
I have never once found myself in a situation where “I was letting them find work their own way through it” was considered to a reasonable reason why something has suffered any kind of delay, loss or error.
I think it’s the philosophical difference around how mistakes are treated: are they learning opportunities that should be celebrated, or are they dangerous flaws that impact profit/reputation and must be mercilessly eliminated?
Despite what Victor Frankl may have said, the gap between what someone is and what they ought to be is often not endured but reviled, criticised and used as a stick to beat people with.
Thanks Mitch. I wonder if the difference is focus. When we focus on developing people responsible mistakes are opportunities. (Mistakes of neglect are different from doing your best and screwing up.) When we focus exclusively on results or personal status, mistakes are sticks to beat people with.
Much of this post applies to parenting as well. Wise words, as always! Thanks
“Show respect for people’s competence by expecting them to lean into headwinds.” I continue to do this with co-workers that are expected to have the knowledge, willingness, attitude, aptitude and passion to do said work. All are much younger than I (young-ins) and I am not finding the “attitude” or “passion” to consistently do the work in the manner it should be. Others have the same “challenges” with our young-ins no matter how we coach and prod them along. It’s just a job to them, nothing more seems to be the starting point so attitude, aptitude and passion just seem lacking. Us older grizzled seasoned ones all blame it on their Dads for not instilling passion and attitude at a young age. I wonder whether others out there see the same dynamic. We just find it so sad.
Successful leaders call people to do hard things…love this..
…very JFK “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
I always feel strength when the tough things are assigned to me/my group.
The dangers of helping too much–The person becomes too dependent on the coach. The person stops learning and taking the initiative.
Dan, I like your point–Never offer help until you ask–“What have you tried?”
Additional questions could be: What did you learn? What will you try next? Who has successfully done this task and what did he/she do?
Too much coaching is as bad as too little coaching.
“If you routinely do for someone what they can do for themselves, you weaken them.” One of my favorites and one my kids have grown to hate hearing me say out loud to them! Quote by Sean Covey
Such a fine line between helping and doing, as Leaders we have to decipher if that questions are laziness or truly educational. We need to make the effort to get individuals to find the answer, the more we do their job the less they will learn. “Same as raising children” as parents in Dawn’s comment. I know my Father read to our daughters when they were very young, surely made a difference for them. Share the instruments of learning the rest will develop.
Right now I am 3,4,5 and 6. For the past 14yrs I gave my employer 110% in everything I did and finally there was an opportunity for a management position, I applied and went thru the process and was told how impressed they were with me, but they chose a person who left our department twice because she refused to work weekends and nights she has less then 5yrs on and off, so how can I accept her as my manager, when she doesn’t have any leadership skills? I’m really struggling with this because I don’t want to resent her.
Lone heroism is one the dangers that leaders face. Give help and ask for help.