3 Signs You’re Offering Destructive Support

A leader’s success depends on the success of others. Individual contributors focus on the work. Leaders focus on the people.

Learning how to bring out the best in people is like walking a tightrope.

  1. How much hand holding is helpful?
  2. When is it appropriate to kick butt?
  3. What are the best ways to challenge and support?

Too much support is destructive. Too much challenge is discouraging. The bigger danger in our culture is destructive support.

The goal of support is enabling.

Leadership quote: The goal of support is enabling. Image of a person spotting a weightlifter.

3 signs you’re offering destructive support:

#1. Over-dependence.

  1. People come for help before they work to resolve their own issues.
  2. You consistently cover for someone’s poor performance.

When your first response is doing something for someone, you teach people to depend on you. This might puff your ego, but it weakens others.

The golden question: Always ask, “What have you tried?” before offering advice or help.

#2. Prolonged weakness.

  1. Stop helping when people stop growing.
  2. Refuse to enable self-defeating behaviors.

When you work harder than they work, you’re prolonging weakness.

Image of a partially wilted sunflower.

#3. Broken boundaries.

  1. Doing someone’s job for them is destructive support.
  2. When you stay late and others go home on time, boundaries have been broken.

The golden question: Whose job is it? Expect competent people to do their job. Look the beast in the eye when people can’t do their job. Offer training. Redesign their job. Reassign them. Or manage them out.

3 commandments for over-helpful leaders:

  1. Thou shalt not help too quickly. When your first response is doing-for, you’re helping too quickly.
  2. Thou shalt not help too much. Before offering help, ask, “What do you need from me?” People need to hear their own voices asking for help.
  3. Thou shalt not help too long. Provide help when people are learning new skills, rising to new responsibilities, or taking on new roles.

What does destructive support look like in your context?

How are you navigating challenge/support?

Still curious:

The Goal of Helping is Enabling, Not More Helping

15 Ways to Help Without Getting in the Way

12 Signs That You’re Giving Too Much