Look Mom…No Hands!

Remember the first time you rode your bike with no hands on the handlebars? Your mother was either thrilled that you could do it or screaming at you to put your hands back on so you didn’t fall and hurt yourself!

Awe yes, good-old helicopter mom who wanted to keep you from falling, failing or getting hurt.   But the truth is, by taking your hands off the handlebars, you exhibited your ability to take chances, overcome fear and/or learn from mistakes if you happened to fall off your bike. You exercised your own will of empowerment.

I had an interesting conversation with a dear friend of mine recently, who was explaining how burnt out and tired she was with her job. I asked her some questions as to why she felt that way and what if anything, had changed in her organization.

As we talked, she confided in me that she had a hard time saying NO to others. Sound familiar?

And while she had a hard time saying NO, she also enjoyed the fact that she had become the “Go-To” person for the other five people on her team. This gave her some sense of fulfillment and yet frustrated her on the other hand that others were not carrying their weight in the amount of work they were doing.

Her fear now, was a precedent that she felt she’d set by just doing things herself and not saying NO when she was already overloaded with her own projects and so forth.

I asked her what she thought would happen if she started saying NO?

Her first response was that others would think she was being mean or “bitchy” or that she was not a team player anymore.

I sympathized with her reply but added, “What do the others do when you are on vacation and not accessible to help them?”

Of course they figure it out on their own I suppose, was her reply.

Right! So what if you started saying NO and providing them with the empowerment and responsibility to figure things out on their own?

She replied; what do you mean?

Well, when you say NO (which is perfectly fine) add in some incentive for them to feel confident to help themselves.

Here is an example I would say: “I’d love to help you with that, however I am so overloaded right now with other projects that I don’t feel I would be of much use. From what you told me, here is where I would start with that project and it would seem that the outcome you are seeking is XYZ. That’s where I would start. I would be happy to review with you upon completion or provide further guidance if you need it. I know you can do this and it will be great!

OK, so maybe some of that sounded cheesy, but you get my drift.

She looked at me, nodded her head and exclaimed: “You are so right!”

The point is this, by not saying NO to her colleagues, my friend was leaving herself feeling burnt out, resentful to team members and ultimately holding herself back from advancing in her career and having time to do new and other projects.

In addition, she was holding her other team mates back from learning how to do what they were capable of doing on their own and showing up for their own success. She had become the helicopter mom at work and didn’t even realize it.

If you want others to feel empowerment to do what they need to do, make mistakes along the way and become confident, accountable and responsible, then you have to start with empowering yourself to say NO and delegate.

Take your hands off the handlebars…Mom!