The running joke in my office is someone on my team saying, “How many times have I told you that ‘I am a team player?!’”
The touch of truth behind it is my theory that the more someone tells you they are a team player, the less likely it is they are one. Team players care too much about the team to constantly talk about themselves. The truth is that if you’re a team player, you don’t have to always go around saying it. It will show. People will know.
I’ve also developed another theory: The more someone tells you they want help, the less likely it is they will accept the help you offer.
I can think of several situations recently where l found myself listening to a leader pour out his complaints, punctuated by seemingly earnest pleas for help. However, it became obvious that they didn’t want, and perhaps didn’t need, any help beyond being listened to.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with needing to be heard. We all need for others to listen to us. No exceptions. Therefore, one of the real gifts we can offer to people is merely the gift of listening without criticism or solutions.
As a leader in your organization, you could probably make a larger impact than you realize by listening empathetically to your team. Try it.
Related to that, it’s an indication that you need more emotional intelligence if you quickly rush in with solutions, opinions and suggestions, when what the person really wants and needs is just for you to listen. I’ve made that mistake more times than I care to admit. People don’t usually appreciate unsolicited advice.
However, what does it mean when a person repeatedly asks for help, yet objects to every solution?
It might mean that they already know what they need to do, but they don’t want to do it. This is where that theory comes in: The more they ask you for help, the less likely it is that they will take your advice. They don’t need an answer. They need the courage to act on the answer they already have.
So, time to look in the mirror, my friend. What’s the issue that you keep asking someone to help you with, while at the same time rejecting every solution as unacceptable?
Could it be that what you need is not the answer, but rather the courage to act on the answer that you already know?
Here’s a challenge: If you want to be the kind of leader whose organization is on the cutting edge, stop asking for someone to give you an answer you already know. Great leaders have the courage to act!
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24 NASB)
This article originally appeared here.