When I notice that one of my staff has a problem they are dealing with, I want to step in to help them fix it (make things better for them). Training and helping them is part of my job as a manager. Stepping in all of the time is not the right thing to do if I want them to grow in knowledge and confidence.
When I think back to when I started out at my job (I was the only employee), I had no one to help me figure out problems that I encountered. I either had to read about them, make a phone call to another manager in the industry or try to figure it out by myself.
Sometimes I did figure it out what was right and sometimes I made mistakes, but when I made a mistake I really learned a lot from it. I would not trade the knowledge of those lessons for anything.
There is something about learning on your own and figuring things out that builds your confidence and makes you feel like you really do have a brain and it works. This is called “on the job experience.”
It is not that I want my staff to struggle, but it is good for them to try to solve the issue first, or at least come up with a solution that they think would work and talk to me about it, before I step in to help them.
My employees are smart people and I trust them. After reading the fable below, I certainly do not want to be the cause of stunting their growth.
The Butterfly Story
A man found a cocoon for a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared stuck.
The man decided to help the butterfly and with a pair of scissors he cut open the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. Something was strange. The butterfly had a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man watched the butterfly expecting it to take on its correct proportions. But nothing changed.
The butterfly stayed the same. It was never able to fly. In his kindness and haste the man did not realize that the butterfly’s struggle to get through the small opening of the cocoon is nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight.
Like the sapling which grows strong from being buffeted by the wind, in life we all need to struggle sometimes to make us strong.
When we coach and teach others it is helpful to recognize when people need to do things for themselves.