Be Less Helpful

Be Less Helpful - Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

This post might seem a little odd. I am inviting some of you to be less helpful. Really? Aren’t the best leaders helpful? Yes and there is a limit. I learned this recently as we are finishing the construction of our new home. My experience helped me understand how I managed to get in my own way for many years in my career.

Being Too Helpful

I’ve started working at our new house now that we have internet in place. It is very handy. Rather than take a 45 minute round trip to the house, I can attend to things between meetings. It started well, and then it happened. We had a lot of contractors at the house last week and there was one thing I needed to do. The trouble is I forgot and that led to what I thought was a very big problem. So much so I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it.


I knew I needed to inform this contractor but I didn’t get to do it because I was distracted. Being on site all day meant that I was available to answer questions. I am sure I was being very helpful and in hindsight too helpful. Because I was available, contractors asked me for guidance when they could have figured things out for themselves. In fact, they probably knew more than me. I usually responded with what would you do. These distractions sucked my attention and I never got round to the important things I needed to do. Does this sound familiar?

Be Less Helpful

At work, this happened to me from time to time. I allowed myself to get distracted by unimportant things because I was trying to help. This not only impacted me but I also encouraged the people around me to bring me their problems. This stopped them figuring things out for themselves and learning in the process.


Do you need to be less helpful and leave people to figure things out for themselves?

Comments (4)

I appreciate your insightful post on “Be Less Helpful”. Your personal experiences, particularly with the construction of your new home and workplace scenarios, effectively illustrate the unintended consequences of being overly accommodating. It’s a valuable reminder that sometimes stepping back can empower others to learn and solve problems independently, ultimately fostering a more self-sufficient environment. Thank you for sharing this perspective—it’s a constructive critique that many, including myself, can learn from to improve our leadership and personal growth.

Thank you Dr Chi, I am glad you found it helpful and I appreciate your comment.

Your story is instructive Andy, especially since I’m about to undertake my own residential construction project (I hope you got the problem resolved 😁).

Even more importantly though, for me your post provoked an important reflection: “For the sake of what am I being helpful?” In my own case, my “naturally helpful disposition”, upon closer inspection, is often for the sake of being liked by the other folks I’m engaged with in the situation at hand.

Being likeable, in life, is generally an asset, but when it takes priority over the successful execution of the project, it becomes a liability — at least in my case.

I will endeavour to keep your post in mind during my project over the coming months.

Thank you Phillip, that is a great question. What is my motivation? I share your tendency and it can get in my way. 🙂

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