Recently, a very frustrated client complained, “I tried my hardest to help my team. They just don’t get it. I only want them to succeed.”
I know her pain very well as a painful lesson I had to learn. It wasn’t until I fully experienced the power of true coaching that I understood the distinction between serving and fixing those we live and work with.
As a high achiever, we often blur being a leader with being a helper. When you view what you are doing as “helping” someone to do things correctly, you are functioning from a position of greater power. You are stronger than the person you are helping who has lesser strength.
Others sense this unequal relationship. If they came to you as unequal, that you are the great one with knowledge, they will eagerly hear. If not, they won’t hear you. Their resentment speaks louder than your words. They may even retaliate by doing something stupid or nothing at all. Then you judge them even more harshly. Ouch. Have you ever complained about having to parent another adult? Maybe you are trying too hard to fix them.
By contrast, “service is a relationship between equals.” It is mutual. Serving is responding to a problem and collaborating to find the solution. You honor the wisdom of experience within the person you are serving and seek to open their eyes to the possibilities that are forming in their minds. In that service, you benefit as well. In the connection we have with those whom we serve both personal and spiritual growth occurs.
Serving definitely feels different from fixing. For one, you’ll be less impatient. You will also know more love and compassion in the process, even when your modus operandi is to close your heart at work. Quit fixing and start caring, truly believing in the greatness in others, and see how your team performs. This might help your relationships, too (sorry, you can’t fix your mate).
Dr. Rachel Remen, author of Kitchen Table Wisdom, writes, “Service rests on the basic premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose. When we serve, we know that we belong to life and to that purpose. When you help you see life as weak, when you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life whole.”
May we each seek to serve instead of fix when we see a problem. In doing so we can experience life not just as our great accomplishment, but as a beautiful, complex, sometimes difficult and always amazing ride.