Pop Quiz: Somebody comes to you with a problem you can solve.
Do you . . .
A. Tell them how to fix it?
B. Fix it for them?
C. Ask questions that help them solve it for themselves?
If you picked A) or B), you’re not alone. Members of our Academy for Compassionate Leadership often self-identify as “fixers.”
And no wonder. When someone asks for our help, we’re enticed by the dopamine hit that comes with demonstrating our expertise and feeling useful. Of course.
Except then, their problem moves to our plate.
Which is probably already quite full.
On the other hand, when people believe their manager can coach them to solve their own problems, they’re more engaged, fulfilled, and likely to stay with the organization. Hmmm.
Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. ~ Benjamin Franklin
Get out of the pit.
Think of your favourite teacher or boss.
Fixer? Not so much. Inspirer? Believer in you? Yeah, I thought so.
Leading isn’t about doing. It’s about inspiring and influencing others to collaboratively, and compassionately, create value. Not so likely if you’re always down in the pit changing tires.
Yes, as a leader you’re ultimately responsible for outcomes.
But seeing everything as mission critical, with no room for error, undermines a leaders’ abilities to expand their own and others’ capacity. You also undermine psychological safety and deprive others of the greatest source of learning — making mistakes.
Whether it’s our kids struggling or a direct report tackling a challenge, often our job isn’t to fix things, but rather to support others in figuring out their own ways through.
Five Fixes for Fixing.
No, this isn’t easy. Leadership is hard work. That’s why you make the big bucks. 🙂
Some tactics to help you resist the fix-it urge . . .
1. Identify your triggers.
- Are you fretting about something beyond your control and trying to relieve your discomfort by fixing something else? One CEO coaching client whose wife was in hospital found himself helping the company’s analysts with their spreadsheets.
- Are you disturbed by seeing others in avoidable pain? I’ve experienced this with my kids. When I find myself slipping down the empathic distress path, fixing things helps ease my discomfort.
- Do you sometimes think, “Argh, it’s faster for me to do it myself!”
- Are you responding to an unconscious impulse to step up whenever you see a problem you can fix?
Take a breath, count to 10. Whatever works. Feel free to add a little self-compassion: “It’s completely understandable I want to do this. May I be kind to myself.”
3. Get Curious.
Ask: “What do you think?” Or “What would you like to see happen?”
Shift their perspective from the problem to the solution, so they start mapping their path forward.
4. And then . . . after you’ve helped them off the floor because they’ve fallen down in shock that you haven’t fixed . . . Listen, really listen to their answers.
5. Notice the impact on their confidence and engagement.
There’s no denying — fixing people’s problems feels rewarding in the short term.
But astute leaders learn it’s even more gratifying to inspire confidence and growth in others.
A leader’s job is not to do the work for others.
It’s to help others figure out how to do it for themselves, to get things done and to succeed beyond what they thought possible. ~ Simon Sinek
Especially for Leaders & Teams in Seniors Care.
From my umpteen years supporting leaders and teams in Seniors Care it’s become abundantly clear: you are really really good at getting things done. You need to be. There’s a lot to do.
And . . . there aren’t enough hours in the day for you to take care of everything. You need others to step up.
Except we teach people how to treat us. If you keep taking care of everything, you’re going to need to keep taking care of everything. You know, like that definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results).
Leading your team includes letting them grow and take things on.
No, they may not even do it the same way as you (heaven forbid). And no, their results may not be as good as your’s, at least not the first few times. And . . . sometimes 80% is good enough.