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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:

  1. Remind people of current skills that apply to new challenges. “You know how to dial the phone.”
  2. Express confidence. “I’ve seen you talk on the phone many times.”
  3. Play what-if. “What will you say if the librarian asks you what your card number is?”
  4. Role play. “Let’s practice the call.”
  5. Stay nearby. “I’ll stay right beside you if you need some help.”
  6. Lower expectations. A culture of support creates a safety net around responsible mistake-making.
  7. 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?

Added resource:

On Broccoli and Peaches – How to Give Challenge and Support | Leadership Freak

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