Let's LEAD - September 2021

'It's that time of year again...!'

Contrary to the glee this parent displayed when shopping for school supplies, I never felt like the pressure was off once school started. 

As a parent, I believed it was my job to ensure my son had everything he needed to be successful in school. If there was something he didn't 'get' when he was doing his homework or preparing for a test, I was there to help. 

Funny (well, funny NOW) story:

I remember getting a call from his 4th grade teacher and the school administrator. My son's grades had been slipping and I had started to up my 'helping' game so he would stay on track.

"He isn't paying attention in class."

Not too surprising...he's got 'shiny object syndrome,' just like his momma.

The teacher continued: "When I talked to him about it, he said that he doesn't need to pay attention during class because 'I'll go home and my mom will teach me.'"


So, a little backstory:

Most of you know that my background prior to coaching was in corporate training, both as a trainer and as a training leader.

Like many in this profession, we have our own supply of training paraphernalia, and for me this included a dry-erase white board, conveniently stored in the dining room where my son did his homework.

Can't figure out how to do that math problem? NO WORRIES! I have a white board for that!

I thought I was 'helping,' when in fact I was sabotaging. It's a slippery slope...

Did I learn my lesson? NOPE! This pattern of swerving into someone else's lane continued throughout his high school years. 

I was so enmeshed in my son's success...as a reflection of me as a 'good' parent...that I exerted whatever control I thought I could to impact the outcome.

It didn't work.

As leaders, we can go down this same rabbit hole with our employees. We can be so tied up with THEIR success as a reflection of OUR effectiveness as a leader that we spend WAY too much time and energy on their side of the street.

'But it's my job to help them be successful.' 

That's true. AND...it's the 'how' we help and the motivation behind that help that can sink us...and our team members.

It's the difference between 'telling them what to do' because it's easier for YOU, and taking the time to engage them in an empowering conversation that leads to THEM figuring it out for themselves.

It's the difference between giving them a fish, and teaching them to fish.

As a leader, are you doing for them what they can do for themselves?  

3 Tips - Reframe 'helping'

Over the last few weeks, my husband and I have been watching a pair of mourning doves and the nest they built on a ledge under our roof eave. A week or so ago, we spotted a couple of babies, and watching Mom and Dad balance their time between being with them under the eave and watching them from a distance (just in case) has been fascinating. 

This morning, the babies are alone in the nest. Mom and Dad are nearby, watching:

Good thing, because here's what was lurking on a nearby lightpost:

Mom and Dad are giving their kids the space to spread their wings, AND they are there if needed. 

Ah...what we can learn from nature. As humans, we over-think, over-do, and over-help...and then justify WHY we made that choice. 

At the time, my justification was solid: 'If I don't help him, he'll fail.' I was being a 'helpful, engaged parent,' when in fact, I was unwilling to let him fail...and let him learn from his mistakes. 

If you see yourself in this story, either as a leader, a parent, (wait...parents ARE leaders, right?) or some other relationship, consider these tips:

  1. Own it. If you're reading this newsletter and your response is 'yeah, BUT...,' you've got some exploring to do. See tip #2. 

  2. Question your motives. What is the reason you feel compelled to help? This assumes they didn't ASK for your help, and even then, you get to decide what 'help' looks like (tip #3). 

    This requires some truth-tellin'...with yourself:
    • What are you afraid will happen if you don't step in?
    • What impact is your 'help' having if you continue to step in?
    • What opportunity is possible if you choose NOT to step in?

  3. Redefine 'help.' Consider shifting your use of the word 'help' to something else. Let's try on the word 'support' and see how it feels:

    Instead of 'can I help you?' or 'let me help you with that,' which implies that you believe the other person NEEDS help, how about 'if you want or need any support, let me know.' This puts the responsibility squarely on the other person to define what that support looks like, AND to ask for it. 

Now, back to the point of deciding what kind of support you're willing to give: if the person says 'tell me what to do,' then you have a choice to make. You can either tell them what to do (the easy route) or you can look for the opportunity in the request (not as easy).

I recommend the latter, which takes more time on the front end, AND creates an opportunity to empower and engage. A nice, long-term strategy that moves you from 'helper' to 'leader.'

I hope this was helpful... 

Cool Resources

What I'm reading (articles, books*):

Last month I told you about the Gifts of Imperfection podcast, hosted by Brene Brown. This month, I'm moving to her Dare to Lead podcast, and I'm finally reading her book by the same title

I love the sub-title: Brave work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. 

*I use Amazon links (no affiliate relationship); please check with your book retailer of choice


"I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes." -- Brene Brown 

...and something more:  

My Amazon Music soundtrack has been delivering some great music lately. As I listened to It's Gonna Get Better by Genesis, I felt a sense of hope...

'...cuz you know...and I know...it's time for change.' 


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I look forward to connecting!

Camille McKinney
Leveraged Leaders