You’ve heard it so many times before. You might even think it is annoying. Yet it is the perfect question for leaders to ask.
Maybe it seems inappropriate for a leader to ask about helping. It might even imply that you don’t know something when you as the leader are supposed to be aware and know!
Yet it does so may wonderful things. It breaks the ice for an interaction. It sets a tone. It says that you are interested in them. It says you want to help or to serve (rather than to be the leader police to fix or correct them). It says that you care. It also speaks to you. It reminds you that you don’t know everything. Oh, you may think that you know, but in reality, you really don’t know. So stop faking it or assuming something and ask. You will probably learn something.
But “how” do you listen? Do you listen to fix, repair or correct? Or do you listen from a place of curiosity and wanting to learn and genuinely be of assistance?
What you do right after asking the question is crucial. What facial expression will you have? How attentive will you be? Will you sit down? Will you lean in? Will you interrupt them? Will you make notes? Will you ask clarifying questions? Will you actively listen or will you merely fake the listening? Then will you signal that you are still the “boss” who knows it all and merely asked that question to show how smart you are? People will be able to tell what you are really doing by what comes next. So be careful.
If you really listen, that is a rare gift. You are giving someone your time and attention. If you want them to be engaged in the mission of the ministry or organization, then be engaged when they talk. Listen to them. Then following up with questions, not statements, to be sure that you really heard and understood what they were trying to say.
Sometimes people struggle. But they put on a brave face. Don’t assume that they are fine and everything is fine. Don’t assume you don’t want to bother them. By “checking in” and asking “How can I help” a lot of good can happen. You can affirm their direction, give them resources, pave the way for them by talking to someone, grant approvals, point them to someone who might have the answers they need, share names of other possible team members, and the list goes on in how you can help.
But. But surely you don’t ask that question so that you can do it for them. That is not helping! They might want to give up. You might want to take control and do it yourself. But that is an unhealthy pattern. This is the time to cage the part of you and self manage your impulses. Help “them” do it. This is also the time to muzzle saying how you would do it. Sure, share a thought to help them avoid a problem or an obvious dead end or constitutional or governance problem that they might not see. But if they excitedly tell you about their wonderful idea, then bite your tongue when you want to add your two cents. Because if you do then it is no longer their idea. It has become yours and you just threw cold water on their enthusiasm. Let go of wanting to show how smart you are. Be supportive. Be their biggest cheerleader.
Furthermore, asking “how may I help you” is not micromanaging. It is caring and keeping in touch. It provides an opportunity to reconfirm mission and vision. It strengthens the relationship. After all people are people and not machines. So asking and the dialogue to follow is the heart of leadership. It sets the tone for being a servant leader. That’s a good thing.
So, get out from behind your screens and get in front of people who have a responsibility in your organization. Smile. Be on their side. Ask, “how may I help you?” They will thank you for that, even if all you do is listen. Unbeknownst to you. That is momentous!
Rev. Scott Gress is believes in Growing People for Ministry by focussing on leadership, discipleship and teamwork. Contact Scott if you are interested in him working with you or your church. A free 30 minutes sample session is available to explore how you might work best together. The Coaching Leader Podcast is also available on iTunes and his YouTube page. You can contact Scott through email firstname.lastname@example.org or his blog page scottgress.com or at 561-542-4472
"Growing People for Ministry" Leadership + Discipleship + Teamwork
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