Strengthening Employees


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.


15 thoughts on “Strengthening Employees

    • You are so correct Stu. Sometimes that is a hard one for me. I will hear one of them struggling out loud and my motherly instinct will want to jump up and rescue them. I am learning to wait it out, many times they do just fine. I also have found that sometimes they want the easy way out and that is just not acceptable in my book. It makes us stronger when we have to work through things and figure them out alone.


  1. Loved the post and the story was quite a well expressed sentiment. I have seen a few examples of cutting that cocoon open and it is hard sometimes to just let it be. That is however the true gift of that circumstance thanks for sharing such a wonderful post. 🙂 Joe


  2. “There is something about learning on your own and figuring things out that builds your confidence”
    This is SO true. and it does not just apply to work. It can be applied to many aspects of life. Life is a continual lesson (if you let it) and from those lessons, confidence emerges and then over time reigns supreme.
    Thanks for a fantastic post.


    • Thank you Elizabeth. I may be a bit stubborn, I have always liked trying to figure problems out myself first. It does make one feel good when they can do it. It is nice to know that help is there, but we must try first. 🙂


  3. It’s so hard holding back when you care about your team. I just had to do something similar on a recent visit to a plant. Letting my team learn from their own mistakes, cutting the apron strings, well it is just plain hard! Great post


  4. Pingback: Strengthening Employees | North Jersey Small Business Forum

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