7 Ways to Give Support Without Prolonging Incompetence
We raised our children to stand on their own two feet. That means we didn’t do things for them that they could do for themselves.
I forget how young Mindy was when she asked me to call the library for her. She didn’t like it, but I told her to call herself.
Challenge and support:
Challenge is more than making demands.
I heard a leader bragging that he consistently challenged his team to multiply their goals by a factor of ten.
There’s transformative power in reaching so high that current strategies don’t work. But repeatedly demanding that goals be multiplied by 10 isn’t leadership. It’s ignorant.
Any leader who consistently walks around 10Xing everyone’s goals gets 10X smaller goals in the beginning.
Invite people to step into situations where support means something.
Support is more than handholding.
Mindy was comfortable talking to her friends on the phone but not strange adults. What would she say if the librarian asked her a question?
7 ways to give support without prolonging incompetence:
- Remind people of current skills that apply to new challenges. “You know how to dial the phone.”
- Express confidence. “I’ve seen you talk on the phone many times.”
- Play what-if. “What will you say if the librarian asks you what your card number is?”
- Role play. “Let’s practice the call.”
- Stay nearby. “I’ll stay right beside you if you need some help.”
- Lower expectations. A culture of support creates a safety net around responsible mistake-making.
- Encourage authenticity. “Tell the librarian this is the first time you called the library by yourself.”
Suppose Mindy was too young to call the library herself. I could say, “Watch dad call. Someday soon you’re going to call the library by yourself.”
Support includes modeling the way.
Tip: Ask people to set their own stretch goals.
What does challenge and support look like from your perspective?
On Broccoli and Peaches – How to Give Challenge and Support | Leadership Freak
Good tips. Would be interested in how to help an elderly parent cope after the loss of their spouse without taking over and creating incompetence!
Wow Charlotte. That’s a tough one. Anytime we challenge someone we have to consider their abilities. That’s the first thing. I wonder if a professional might be useful?
I suggest asking the elderly parent–How can I help? What can I do to help you cope with the loss of your spouse? What can I do to help you over the next few weeks?
Paul B. Thornton
Thanks for jumping in Paul. Your comment caused me to wonder how long should it take to begin rising after a terrible loss?
How long will it take? I think every situation is different. As you know, leaders need to make a lot of judgments based on their assessment of what’s needed–how they can add value.
I think in that case its not so much incompetency but dependency, especially in the case of the loss of a loved one. There may be things that the other person did that the widower has no clue how to do (e.g. banking, taxes, paying the bills). That requires support,, and in that case Dan’s model is a good start. That said, the loss of someone close is incredible painful and emotional so any resistance to doing something new is tied to those emotions. If family members are the ones providing that help, they also bring their emotions into the situation as well, which can often lead to frustration. It takes tons of patience in those cases, and like Dan recommended possibly intervention by a professional.
I’ve recently started using the analogy of a “spotter” in a gym. There if help is needed, but still encouraging the “lifter” to do it mostly on their own.
Thanks Kevin. Wonderful analogy. I’m glad you shared it.
Always seem to remember the Training wheels on the first bicycle, the freedom that came when we took them off. The learning process seems to stay a lifetime. Hand ups not hand outs.
Thanks Tim. Another wonderful illustration. “Hand ups not hand outs” seems powerful in this context.
I once gave a relative new staff person an assignment she didn’t think she was ready for (running a meeting). In fact, the day after I gave her the assignment, another colleague pulled me aside and let me know she had started smoking again from the stress. So I made a cheat sheet for how to run a meeting (less than one page, all bullets), and then met with the staff person again. I started out by explaining she was ready (complete with examples of work she had done for me), explaining why I felt this assignment was the right one for her (information-gathering meeting so not confrontational, other team members would be there, how well she had handled herself in previous meetings), and then went over the cheat sheet with her. She then went off and used the cheat sheet to come up with a plan. When the meeting was over, she came and told me that it wasn’t nearly as challenging as she had first thought.
And the next time I gave her an assignment out of her comfort zone, she trusted that I wasn’t tossing her in the deep end and walking away but was instead standing right there with a life preserver, ready to jump in if (not when, if) needed.
And I have that cheat sheet for the next time I ask someone to run a meeting for the first time.
“Support includes modeling the way.” Well said. I often use Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership Challenge book and “modeling the way” is the first of their leadership principles. Leaders have to be the example. We also have to remember that we are always an example, it could be a good example or a bad one. The trick is WE CHOSE what kind of example we are modeling. Thank you for the thoughts today Dan.