Helping Without Hurting

There are so many management lessons to be learned from parenting, and I think that helping without hurting is one of them.

Loving your children, and loving the people you manage, will cause you to help them unconditionally. You want to do so much for them, and so you’ll give an awful lot; your generosity knows no bounds.

Yet we do have to step back at times (at many, many times), and stop ourselves.

We need to stop giving when we make it way too easy, and those we give to lose their own natural hunger. They don’t try hard enough, nor reach far enough, because we’ve robbed them of the experience of striving, and wanting more badly than they do.

We intended to help, and to love, but we’ve hurt them because we’ve robbed them of the joy which can come from expended effort. We’ve prolonged their path to achieving their self-reliance (if they ever do).

It is one thing to have your child tell himself

“It’s hard; I’ve tried several times and keep coming up short — why?”

It’s quite another to have your child tell himself

“Why bother? I’ll get it one day if I just wait long enough.”

In the first instance, he will keep questioning, and keep looking for new methods, options or alternatives. “Hard” is a temporary state of affairs. In the second, we’ve chipped away at his once-innate bravado and can-do spirit and only complacency remains. Even wanting something has gotten shallow.

We can keep caring

I’ve found that the value of Mālama can help me make better decisions when I weigh my options between giving that help I so want to give, yet holding back my first impulses to do so. Thinking about Mālama gives me pause, at least long enough to listen to that small voice which affirms yet asks, “I know you have good intentions, but are you sure you should do this for them?”

Mālama” the value of caring and compassion.
Mālamalama” the light of knowledge, and clarity of thinking.

I admit to you that I continue to fail miserably at holding back as a parent. I’m weak.  I know that I do way too much for my children, and I need to stop, so they do for themselves. I’m better at this as a manager, where there’s a bit less intimacy in our relationships (we have useful boundaries) but I can mess up a lot there too.

However I’m  getting better by remembering to call on Mālama as my self-coaching mantra. Mālama is also the value of empathy, and putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes as the way we care for them. We weigh in with tough love precisely because we are compassionate, and we do care, but we need to pause for a bit more enlightenment: We’ll then be able to give our care in the best way versus the impulsive way.

Show me the signs

I find I’m looking for recognizable markers now. They are very individual though, shifting from person to person. I ask myself, “When is that concept of ‘tough love’ better?” and the most reliable answer is “Usually. Try to see it more. Allow it to show up.”

It gets increasingly better. The joy is that I can accept my strength and deny my weakness. The irony of tough love, is that it is often tougher on us, than on those we give it to, and as such, it’s one of the greatest kinds of love which exist.

When we’ve stopped giving too much, without holding back an iota on the goal we strive for or the gift we want to give, and our children or our people become successful on their own in achieving it, we are also successful in becoming stronger — we’ve both become stronger. Our weakness was another temporary state of affairs.

What about you? How do you achieve this balance? How do you help your children, and your people, become hungry, tenacious, resilient and persistent? Do you go so far as to introduce adversity into the workplace, or at least illuminate it? Then what kind of support do you continue to give, without giving too much, so that they welcome your tough love for them?

Photo Credit: Reach by Cayusa on Flickr

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  1. This is the advice I find I’m giving to my own children these days, as two young adults forging their way in a world where a lot of the rules have changed, or are still in flux. It’s advice I’m newly taking for myself too. This is a day and time where …