Your Help is Hurting Me

November 10, 2009 - Mac Lake - Leadership
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Sometimes the worst thing we can do for those we lead is to help them.

Several years ago I had a staff member who was experiencing conflict among his team and he asked me to help with the situation.  As I listened to him describe how bad it was I told him I would come to his team meeting and handle it myself.  The next day I lead them through a process that restored unity and peace.  He was happy, I was happy and the team was happy.
 
About six months later he came into my office again and informed me that a different conflict had arisen and wanted to know how he should handle it. Once again I stepped in and mended the situation.   A  year later this scenario was repeated, and again I mounted my white horse and rode in for the rescue.  My help slowly dismantled his credibility with the team and his confidence in himself.  It wasn’t long afterward that he left our staff.

One of our biggest responsibilities as leaders is to help people develop the competence and confidence to fulfill their role.  To do this we must  provide the right  kind of leadership at the right time. Obviously, when someone lacks the experience or the skills we must be directive by telling them what to do, how to do it and even model it for them.

But sometimes a leader actually has the skill to do a job or make a decision, they simply lack the confidence.  In this case we must refrain from giving them the answers or doing it for them, otherwise we injure their confidence and hinder their developmental process.

Here are three steps you can take to lead someone who has competence but lacks confidence:

  1. Asking probing questions.  Get them to think for themselves.  Ask:  Why do you feel hesitant?  What are your options?  Which do you feel is the best option?  Why?  What do you think will result with each of these options?   Don’t give them the answers, simply ask questions, listen and let them decide what to do.
  2. Affirm the Right thinking. As you listen to their answers affirm their thinking.  Affirm the potential you see in them, affirm the solutions they’re proposing to the problem, affirm the gifts and strengths God has given them.  Your goal is to sincerely build their confidence for the task.
  3. Analyze the results.  Once they finish the task or goal debrief the experience with them. Discuss what they did well, what they would do differently and what they learned from the experience.

While this may take more thinking and discipline on your part, you will end up developing the confidence and competence of those you lead.

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Mac Lake

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