Helping Employees: Do you? Or Don’t You?

When any of my staff members come to me with a problem my gut instinct is to immediately help them fix it. (Make things easier for them).  Training and helping them grow in their position is part of my job.  But, when I think back to when I started out at my job it was just me, no other staff, and I had no one to help me figure out many of the problems I encountered so I just tried to figure out what was the right thing to do.

Many times I did figure it out the answer and sometimes I made mistakes, but with the mistakes I really learned a lot. I would not trade the experience of having to figure things out and the knowledge I gained from the lessons learned 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. You gain wisdom from experience.

After thinking about this, it is not that I want my staff to struggle, but it might be really good for them to try to solve their problems first, or at least come up with a solution that they think would work to run by me before I step in and help them.

My Millennial staff members are very smart people. I trust them and 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.


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