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How to Help Others Improve
September 26th, 2012 by Robert Moskowitz  Posted in Career Advice

How to Help Others ImproveOne of the best ways to make yourself more valuable on your job, and in your life, is to learn some of the basic skills involved with helping others to get what they want.

You don’t have to make a career of coaching to offer other people significant help in dealing with a crisis, making tough choices, or gearing up to improve themselves.

First Steps

The start of any helpful encounter with another person is to work together to establish both the problem to be addressed, and the details of what a solution would look like.

Is the person out of shape? What would being “in shape” look like? Does the person face a difficult decision? How can he or she know they’ve made a satisfactory choice? Is the person having difficulties at work? What’s the standard for knowing those “difficulties” are over?

In setting these criteria for monitoring improvement, remember to make them as specific as possible. That way, they’re more likely to stay fixed and achievable as the situation improves.

These standards should also be measurable in some way.

You also want to make sure, as a helpful person, that these performance standards are realistic, so there’s a fair chance of achieving - and recognizing - success.

Second Steps

With the problem defined and the goals or standards for success established, it’s important to take some time and clarify the problem situation. Try to identify the important actions the person is taking, as well as the people and the forces in play. Any or all of these may be contributing to the problem or become a pathway to a solution.

The more details that are explicitly itemized about what’s going on in the person’s life and work, the more likely you’ll find the best path to an acceptable solution.

Toward Improvements

Go over the information that’s now identified and on the table. You and the person you’re helping can explore this material in search of options for creating a viable way to improve things.

In this phase of the process, it’s usually more helpful to ask questions than to provide the other person with your answers.

One of the best ways to proceed is to generate a large number of possible action steps or strategies without regard to practicality. Then you can start to pare them down, combine them, or “flip” them to their opposites in an effort to identify the building blocks of a realistic method for getting to the goal.

Consider such questions as:

  • “What could you do differently from what you’re doing now?:
  • “How would things change if a specific person or factor stopped doing what they’re doing?”
  • “What’s the best way to determine which options are more or less likely to be helpful?”
  • “What are the positives and negatives of each strategy under consideration for improving the situation?”
By discussing the various options in light of the desired outcome, a preferred strategy usually emerges. If one doesn’t - in other words, if there is no “perfect” choice, or if two choices seem equally the “best” - it’s often helpful simply to choose any viable course of action.

However, when choosing from among seemingly equal opportunities, it’s helpful to try the one that - if it doesn’t work - will leave open the best possibilities for trying something else.

Final Steps

As a helpful person, you may need to provide incentives so the other person gets off the dime and takes some action - any action. In some situations, making the first change is actually the hardest step, because committing to action brings up fears of failure.

To help insure that the other person actually tries to create some improvements, encourage him or her to set up a plan to reach the establish goal by following a list of small, “bite size” action steps, spaced out along a realistic timeline.
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Tags: at-work, advice, career-growth, leadership
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