Written for TakeON! by Tamara Waugh of ON-Brand Partners
In both my professional and personal lives, I am the giver of support, encouragement and solutions for making things better. Now I am learning to let others make it better themselves.
I have a friend who, like me, gives great advice. But she has an additional skill that I am yet to possess. The key to empowering and leading others is the ability to step back and let the person figure out for themselves the answer or path they are going to take.
For example, to teach the trapeze, you must first tell your student that you want them to swing, flip and land. Secondly, you must show them how to swing, flip and land. As long as you have provided a safe environment, given them the tools required, and led them to a place where they can incorporate their own style, then that is where your involvement should stop. You can’t actually swing, flip and land for them!
For months I have pondered my inability to ‘let go’ at the right time. This week, while facilitating team-building with middle management leaders, I suddenly understood how to put the theory into practice. As I visited the four team-building activities, I rehearsed ‘stepping back’ over and over, and over again.
Gradually I got more and more comfortable with letting them make mistakes and learn for themselves. I reconstructed my feedback to end with a question rather than a statement, allowing the participants ‘the last word’.
This leads to our theme ‘Coaching for Success’, and the importance of the pyramid model of which emphasises dialogue over download and debate. The difference between coaching and telling is simply learning to ask effective questions that provoke insight, discovery and action.