Give others the gift of struggle

As leaders, when we see other people struggling with a problem, in pain, frustrated and exhausted, we feel the need to jump in and fix, all in the name of “good leadership.” After all, leaders go first, right? They protect. They tell others what to do. They give good advice.

Maybe not. Jumping to fix and rescue others from their struggle is not leadership. It is robbery.

Leaders grow and develop those around them. When we jump in and rescuer others from their pain, from their struggle, we rob them from their development.

Struggle is a gift. Struggle gives us the opportunity to learn something new, apply and practice new skills, and to develop greater confidence.

When we jump in and fix other people’s problems for them, we not only rob them of the gift of struggle, but we are taking on their responsibilities, which ultimately overwhelms our plate and robs us of our developing.

The reality is rescuing typically comes to us leaders from a root of avoidance. We are avoiding our own struggle and we do that by taking on a struggle we believe we can handle. Only problem, it is NOT our struggle to handle. This is called rescuing. When we do this, we step into the role of a rescuer.

What is a rescuer? A rescuer is a role we step into when we take on other people’s responsibilities either by doing the thinking for them or by doing the work for them.  To learn a little more about this role check out the Karpman Drama Triangle. (More info on this later)

Volition Insight, The Drama Triangle

We have a solution for you this month to help you get out of rescuing because it does become a habit.

The solution is a simple three-step process.

Stop, Drop, and Roll

  1.  STOP jumping in and rescuing. Stop jumping in and fixing.  Stop giving advice, mid-sentence if necessary.
  2. DROP the responsibility. It’s not yours. It’s the other person’s. Don’t take it on by doing the thinking for them.
  3. ROLL that responsibility back on the person it belongs to. A simple way to do that is to ask a question like, “What can I do to support you, as you resolve this problem?”


So, here’s a standard gift-of-struggle high-jacking scenario we, as leaders, find ourselves in: Someone comes to us, frustrated with a problem, maybe even crying, and possibly truly victimized. They just need to “vent” and it just so happens to be a problem that we have some experience with, so what do we do?

Well, the old way of rescuing would be to: Stop what we are doing to jump in and rescue them from their struggle. Start doing all the thinking for this person, start making suggestions, offer advice, use up your creative, emotional, and mental energy and save the day. NOT THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO DEVELOP OTHERS.

Here’s what we suggest with your new “Stop, Drop and Roll” tool.

Notice your mind thinking of what this other person should do. STOP doing the thinking. STOP telling them what to do. STOP giving advice.

DROP the responsibility. It’s not yours. You have greater value to give, rather than being the savior of their problem.

ROLL that responsibility onto that other person by asking empowering questions, that helps that person start thinking of their own solutions.

Here are a few examples below, but to make it really easy to remember in the moment, get in the habit of asking ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions, as a rule of thumb.

  • “What is the core challenge you are faced with in this situation?”
  • “How do you plan on looking for the right solution for you?”
  • “What do you plan on doing to resolve this?”
  • “What was your contribution to this situation and how would you like to turn it around?

Notice how all of the communication is asking questions, empowering the other person to do their own thinking? Very different from the, know-it-all/us-looking-good approach.

When we stop rescuing and start asking empowering questions, we give others the gift of their struggle. Their struggle becomes a gift when it is used as an opportunity to grow. When we avoid jumping in and fixing, we keep our own load light, so that we can overcome our own struggles.

Leaders grow leaders; and this is your Volition Insight tip of the month to empower you to keep growing as a leader and to grow the leaders around you.

With Volition,