This week I’ve been working with a few different groups of amazing and high performing leaders. While we’ve been talking about a range of things, including how to take ownership of their own careers, play to their leadership strengths, build their confidence, resilience and wellbeing, there has been a recurring obstacle. The big obstacle has been the amount of time being used to help others out. So much time that it is impacting these individuals’ ability to deliver on their own leadership portfolio. To meet the delivery timeframes that they have so that they can contribute to their own roles.
And so, the question that has been posed is, how do you juggle the balance between focusing on your own clear responsibilities, with feeling like you are contributing to the team and to your colleagues by helping other people out?
Of course, you want to help the people around you. You want to be supportive of others. However, when the level of help starts to impact your own ability to do what you need to do, it’s a tough choice to make. Do you help them? Or do you focus on your own work?
When I’ve dug deeper in these conversations, one of the things that I have noticed is that for people who do get caught in this helping others cycle, there is an opportunity that may be being missed.
It may be that you simply have a lot of knowledge and so people come to you for information and advice. It might be that you are in a support role. Maybe you are a business partner in HR or a senior people and culture leader, providing guidance to other leaders in the business. Or maybe you operate in IT support or any of the other myriad support roles that are needed in any organisation. Maybe you have simply been around for a long time, and you have a lot of organisational knowledge that other people want to get access to.
Whatever the reason that people come to you, what I want you to think about is the approach you use when helping them. Most people will naturally fall into a mentoring approach to helping others. When someone says to you, “Hey, have you got a minute?” or, “Can you help me with this?”, you naturally go to mentoring them. Sharing your guidance, sharing your experiences, telling them what to do, and then what to do next.
While this is one great way to help people, it does rely on you and your expertise. What that means is that, next time, when that person is faced with a challenge or needs some support, they will come back and they will ask you to help them again. They may even ask you the exact same question.
I’d like you to consider another way of providing help and support to the people around you. Employing a coaching approach rather than a mentoring approach. When you are mentoring, it is all about what you know. When you are coaching, it is all about what they know.
When you adopt a coaching approach, you are transitioning the responsibility for solving the problem or finding a way forward or making the decision from yourself to them. That does two things. One, it shifts the responsibility and, two, using a coaching approach creates a learning opportunity. Which means that next time this person will be more equipped to deal with their own challenge, to solve their own problem, and to make a decision that does not necessarily rely on you. This is good for both of you.
Rather than when someone says, “Hey, have you got a minute?” you listening to the story and the background, and then providing guidance and advice, I want you to think about using a coaching approach. An approach which is more focused on you asking some great questions to help them think through how they will deal with the situation. You may be familiar with it. The GROW model is a really simple way of starting this coaching process.
Very simply when someone comes to you with a question or a need for support, then you can ask them the four questions that make up the GROW model.
First, start with identifying the topic?
What do they need help with or what do they want to talk about?
They share the topic with you. Then you follow up with these four simple questions.
Your job is to ask the question and then hold the space so that they can think about it and answer the question.
GOAL – The first question is about the goal.
- What is their goal here?
- What would they like to achieve?
This is the question you are going to ask them, and then you are going to wait for them to answer it.
And so, they may say, “Well, I need to find a solution to ‘XYZ’ situation in the next 30 minutes.” Great. And so, then you would ask them a question to help them figure out what the situation really is.
REALITY – This question is about reality. And so, you might ask a question like.
- What is happening now?
- What is happening right now?
- What is the current situation?”
And then, you hold the space and you listen to their answer. They share the relevant information. The third question is about not giving them advice, but rather asking them a question which helps them to brainstorm different potential ways forward or options.
OPTIONS – The question is about options.
- What options do you have?
- What options do you have to move a step forward?
Invite them to share at least three ideas. In this way, they are generating ways forward. If they don’t know and they can’t come up with any ideas, of course, you could make a couple of suggestions. Importantly, ask them the question first and see what they can come up with.
Once they have all of those ideas, which is great, congratulate them, then it is about getting down to business. Taking action.
WAY FORWARD – This is W in our GROW model, This is about what they will do and the way forward, and so that’s the question you ask.
- What will you do?
- What will you do now?
The idea is that they think about their options. They choose the one that is going to help them to move forward or make progress. Then you can help them to flesh that out into a plan. And so, you might ask them,
- What are the steps you are going to take?
- By When?
By using a coaching approach with your colleagues, they are solving the problem rather than you. Along the way, they also get some great ideas for next time. This takes the pressure off you and allows you to get back to your work with less interruptions, and it enables them to be more equipped for next time.
I suggest moving the balance from a mentoring approach to a coaching approach. You are helping the people around you, and it is taking far less of your time and expertise, as well as helping the people around you to grow and develop so they are more equipped for next time. That means you can both get on with your important work.
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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