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Teach a person to fish

teach-a-man-to-fish-eric-tresslerAs I start a new chapter in my life, I’m reminded of the old saying, “Give a person a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.” The origins of this say are highly contested, but that doesn’t dectract from the truth of it. 

The essence is short-term versus long-term thinking.

Short Term – Someone on your team is struggling to do something that is needed urgently that you know you can do well and quickly, so you take over and get it done. Problem solved, right? Well, you’ve solved the immediate problem. But the other person is no better for it. In fact they may be worse off. They may now not feel capable of the doing the work. They probably won’t feel motivated to do any future work like this, as you’ll probably take that away from them too. You’ll also make yourself a bottleneck in the process.

Result: Short-term gain, long-term loss.

It feels good because there’s a spotlight on us. We want to be the heroes and solve the problem. It’s an adrenaline rush. This feeds our ego.

Long Term – Instead of taking over the work from your colleague, you sit with him and work through the issues together, helping him understand the concepts and practice the techniques that could be employed to solve the issues. Yes, it may take longer, but you’ve helped someone gain new knowlege and build their confidence in a new skill they didn’t previously have. Not only will there soon be 2 of you that can now do this type of work, but because your coaching was effective, the other person can use your coaching techniques to coach others.

Result: Potentially a short-term loss in time, exponential long-term gain.

This feels good too, but in a different kind of way. There’s no spotlight on you and how you saved the day. Rather, by putting your ego aside, you gained a deep feeling of satisfaction that you’ve helped someone else learn and grow.

That’s happiness for me.

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