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Stop being so darn helpful!

Stop being so darn helpful!

June 15, 2017

It's messing things up. Here's why...

Chances are that your office has some messy drama. You’re not alone - most workplaces do. Last week we discussed shifting from Victim to Creator: creating your own reality instead of being a passive, helpless Victim.

Now it’s time to meet the next character in this trio- the Rescuer.

To recap: Dr. Stephen Karpman theorized that every “story” has 3 characters: Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer.

1. Victim: Feels persecuted, powerless, and denied. Thinks “poor me”.

2. Persecutor: Introduces the challenge, obstacle or difficulty. Sometimes the Persecutor is a difficult person, but it can also be a tough situation. Difficult regulations, financial pressure, difficult boss or employee.

3. Rescuer: Feels the needs to “save” the Victim. Sees himself as superior to the poor victim who needs to saved. Needs to feel needed.

Can you relate to any of these?

  • You derive meaning from being the hero on the white horse.
  • You get a thrill from “saving” the Victim from his Persecutor.
  • You’re the friend/ parent/co-worker to whom the Victim turns to fix his life for him.
  • You have great solutions are often able to help the Victim in a way that others can’t.
  • You’re a very emotionally supportive person.

These qualities aren’t inherently bad. In fact, they’re great. You really want to help.

But the problems arise when you take on the role of Rescuer, it’s unhealthy for the all three players. It frames the relationship as “I’m great...you’re a poor loser...I’ll save you.” This keeps the Victim powerless.

But there is a better way.

The real way to help the Victim is by becoming a Coach. The healthy version of Rescuing, is Coaching. The Coach still hears the dirt and the misery, but he doesn’t step into fix it.

The Coach will not do the work for him as the Rescuer would have. If you do, you’ve just earned an Upward Jumping Monkey for yourself. Beware! The Coach supports the Creator to fix his own life and meet his challenges head on. He’s an “empowerer.”

How do you move them toward their own success rather than fix their messes for them? You coach them out of their victimhood.

Certainly telling them that they’re a victim won’t work. Don’t try it. So how do you empower them and not come off as patronizing, or a cop who caught them making a mistake, or as cynical and insulting?

[Download your printable Coaching Questions Card.]

It’s a simple, powerful asset to make the shift from Rescuer to Coach.

I have one printed out near my desk as a constant, quick reminder. It’s made a big difference.

Let’s take this scenario that just happened with one of our members.

Click below to watch the video...

You’re the owner of an online retail company. Your employee, Julie, the Director of Online Sales, talks for months about making joint ventures, but she never gets around to it. It’s a business proposition that's important but not urgent.

How do you coach her to get this project underway? The conventional way is being a cop and go on the attack. Delineate what she’s doing wrong and expect her to just fix it. Or to step in and solve the problem for her.

Here’s the 6 Step Question Coaching Process:

1. I noticed that…. (you’re not following through with setting up joint ventures)… What’s up?

This opens up the conversation in an honest, non-threatening way. Instead of blaming or putting words into your employee's mouth, this question gives your employee a chance to be reflective rather than defensive.

Start with the facts, not the emotions or projection. “I noticed that you’re not following through with your project.” Not, “you’re being irresponsible and letting this important project fall through the cracks.”

In our scenario Julie shares that she doesn't really have the time to do it. This creates an opening for the second key question which gets to the underlying issue.

2. What’s the real challenge here for you?

This is one of the most important coaching questions. Remember, coaching is about guiding your employee through solving the issue him/herself.

Go one step deeper and invite your employee to get to what’s really going on behind this stuck. There’s almost always an underlying bigger issue behind the superficial one.

As one of my good friends often says,

“It’s not the issue that’s the issue, it’s your issue with the issue.”

Julie tells you that she’s constantly under pressure to keep making the monthly sales targets. She remarks (probably even complains) that you’re holding her responsible for short term sales. You both agree that this project is important, but the reality is that Julie’s too bogged down and overwhelmed that this project is just not urgent enough to really make it onto her to-do list.

There we go: she feels, “you're pushing me too much on current sales numbers. I don’t have any time or space for this.”

Now, you can have a problem-solving conversation.

3. What’s your next step?

Remember, you’re not here to solve her problem for her. As tempting as it may be, don’t immediately offer a solution, that’s Rescuer thinking.

As Marshall Goldsmith puts it, asking “Why don’t you try this?’, improves the idea by 5% but reduces the motivation of the person by 75%.”

Now that the real issue has been aired, empower her to come up with the answer herself. This question is particularly powerful because it focuses on an immediate action item.

Instead of, “how will you solve this?” you’re asking her to come up with a first step in the right direction. Much more manageable.

Julie tells you that she needs to recruit and train someone else to help her manage the online sales tasks. She’ll have to “slow down to speed up” and take the time to simplify and codify what she does so she can step back and focus on developing joint ventures.

4. By when?

Now make it real. You may be tempted (yet again) to jump in and offer a deadline right away. Don't fall for the trap. Repeat the mantra, “I’m a Coach, not Rescuer” as many times as it takes! Let the person set their own deadline.

(You'll be surprised. Most of the time their deadline will be faster than you would have set yourself. Your employees really do want to succeed. Remember that.)

Julie says she could probably get it done in about a week. Realistically you know that this is impossible. So you question, “Maybe you want to take some more time?” At this moment Julie realizes that you really have her back. She counters that it will probably take her 3 weeks.

5. What support do you need?

Now’s when you can shift back into “leader mode” a bit. Your job is as a leader is to run block and remove obstructions for your team. Now, once your employee has come up with a solution herself, you can offer specific support.

Julie says, “You really know our team better than I do. Maybe you could think about who could step up and start helping me with some of the sales tasks. I’d really appreciate that.” You agree to help her find someone and set a time to get back together to touch base.

You finish with an amazing question. Ask:

6. What was most useful for you here?

A couple of these questions I learned from the book called, “The Coaching Habit” by Michael Bungay- Stanier. It’s a great read. This is hands-down my favorite question of his.

Why? It sets up employee to be a self-reflective leader and puts you in the position of someone who empowers them. The greatest teachers aren't those that teach information but help you grow.

It allows them to take away some value from the conversations and focus on what was beneficial and helpful for them, helping them learn for the next time.

Warning: You’re not a psychoanalyst, so don’t pretend to be one. (Unless you are. If so, keep it on the couch, not in the office.)

A coach is not a therapist. Respect your team’s space and have safe boundaries. Probing too much is unhealthy and won’t help either of you.

Keep in mind, the reason why you are doing this. You’re building a team of leaders and reducing the company’s the dependence on you.

[Download your printable Coaching Questions Card.]

It’s a simple, powerful asset to make the shift from Rescuer to Coach.

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be.


P.S. If this was a little heavy, have some fun with Fontella Bass with the Motown hit, “Rescue Me”.