You Think You're Helping --- Think Again!


You're deep in thought, working on a project when all of a sudden you look up and see one of your direct reports waiting in the doorway to get your attention.  Needing your help, you stop what you're doing, listen to the question and give him the answer that he needs. 

Are you helping your team when you come to their rescue? If you think that you are, think again. What you're actually doing is perpetuating a problem by being the "go-to" person for answers. 

Interruptions are consistently considered one of the major distractions that impede productivity.  Yet managers routinely let themselves be interrupted in order to help their team move forward.  In the short term, the work gets done but is there a negative long term impact to the manager and to individuals seeking help?  Yes!

What is the best way to help a member of your team?  One killer strategy is to let them learn to find answers on their own; give your employee the opportunity to grow, develop, and add value to your organization.  It won't happen if you are their crutch.

Understanding the reason(s) this happens will help eradicate the recurrence.  Here are some possible causes:

- Additional training is needed

- Lacking good documentation or reference information

- Laziness -- it's easier to pick up the phone, walk down the hall or send an email

- Information is not being shared

- Not knowing who the appropriate "go-to" person is

- There is always someone else who gives the answers

- It's easier to have someone else do the work

- Fear of making a mistake

- Not understanding the level of authority they have to make decisions

Finding a Win-Win Solution:  GPS

GPS usually stands for global positioning system, the navigation system that gets us from one place to another.   GPS can also help navigate you and the person you are managing to stay on track.  TimeFinder's GPS stands for: Goal, Purpose, and Scope.  Communicating the GPS of a project or recurring work sets someone up to succeed, become more independent and self-reliant.

Breaking Down GPS

·  Goal. Determine the objectives and set the goals.  What does the work you are delegating look like when it is completed?

·  Purpose.  Understand the purpose, the "why" of work in which you are involving someone.  That's how you get buy-in on a project.  Explain how the work fits into a project.  Explain how the work fits into the bigger picture of the team or company goals.

·  Scope.  What can you share?  Examples include deadline, format, who will see it (audience), budget, available resources (people or information), decision-making authority, who else is involved, capital, equipment, facilities, standards, and your involvement.


When an employee comes to you for help, avoid the knee-jerk reaction of answering their question.  Instead ask for their solution.  Keep asking open-ended questions like, "What do you think would be the best way to handle this?"  "Where do you think you could find answers to your questions if I wasn't here?" "How would you like to resolve this?" When they have a viable solution, reinforce their abilities.  Encourage them that they didn't need you and are capable. 

The IKEA Effect

When we figure out something on our own and know that we've done our best work, we take pride and satisfaction in our accomplishments.  For example, it's easy to see the pride in a child's eye when they've done something on their own or the feeling of satisfaction we get from completing a DIY project.  This is  referred to as the "IKEA effect."  The lesson of the IKEA effect,  in business, when managing and leading is the same.

There's a difference in supporting someone vs. doing it for them.  It's important to understand where and when to draw the lineEmployees who get the work done and learn to be self-reliant, will take pride in their accomplishments and be your most valued employees.

To be a good business owner, leader or manager, it's necessary to let go and let others grow. Communicate effectively, build confidence and display trust!


Posted on October 16, 2015 .