Have you ever heard of the saying “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”? Many people truly believe it relates to leadership, and so do I. As a leader, do you ever find that a not very much pleased part of your day is answering people’s questions and solving people’s problems, even though deep down you know that they can do that themselves? Every leader or entrepreneur has the experience and has knowledge that is absolutely fine to share with others in the right situation. But do you believe that you are really helping people by doing so?
Answering questions and sharing experiences with other people is sometimes considered a “feeding process” and nothing more than that. We feed them for one day, but they will come back to us with other questions the next day and so on. The best approach to be followed is teaching them how to fish. By feeding them, we probably are at the same time feeding something in ourselves. Sometimes we as leaders might need recognition and need to be needed, which helps us in many aspects of our lives, but in leadership and coaching, this needs coverts into a real hindrance.
Who does not love to be asked for advice? We all love that! We think that we are helping people, don’t we? But sometimes, in essence, we are at the same time feeling a need in ourselves. What is coaching really about? Coaching is giving somebody else the capacity to solve their own problems by exploring their situation. When I came across that, I understood what I could really do for the people. I decided to stop feeding me and start caring for that person I am helping.
I came across a story when I was a student myself, which helps me relate and think about helping other people. The story says that a man came across a butterfly cocoon. He saw a small hole and a butterfly that was struggling to get through this small hole. The struggle fascinated him, and as he continued to watch it, his curiosity started to wonder how the butterfly would manage to get through that small hole. The man decided to be gone only to come back a few hours later. In the meantime, the butterfly was still struggling through the hole. He decided to help the butterfly since he had created feelings for her. Seeing the butterfly giving up, the man could not hold himself back. He took a pair of scissors, and he cut the butterfly through the cocoon. The butterfly got out with ease but had an engorged body and withered wings. In his haste to help, the man did not realize that the struggle for the butterfly to get through the hole in the cocoon actually serves to force the fluid from its body into its wings, so it can be fully formed to fly.
This story is my secret reminder whenever I am leading or coaching people. As a leader, I challenge myself that before I dive in and give advice, which comes more naturally, try and give the other person the pleasure of solving their problems. I dare you to do the same.