This blind spot exists inside almost all companies. Whether or not you are guilty of it, it’s practically a guarantee that somebody at your company creates a culture of learned helplessness.
The definition of learned helplessness is “a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed.”
In business, a culture of learned helplessness gets created when underlings come to you for help with every little problem. When employees come to you for help, do you always give them the answer right away? Or do you help and empower them to solve the problem themselves?
Everybody wants to feel needed and like they have the answers. Sometimes, feeling like “the one” acts as an ego boost. Perhaps it makes you or your managers feel powerful.
Other times, leaders and managers lack trust in their employees, and they feel the need to micromanage. They often think that employees are not capable of doing things as well as them.
Whatever the situation, leave your ego at the door.
Studies show that when people get stuck in a cycle of learned helplessness, they don’t choose to stop the pain even when presented with the opportunity. Many respected psychotherapists believe that being in a state of learned helplessness promotes
• Low self-esteem
• Negative health symptoms
• Cynicism, and much more
Of the 13 Blind Spots you learn in Sandler Training’s award-winning, world-renowned Leadership for Organizational Excellence Program, this is the easiest one to fix. That’s because it starts with you.
Of course, there are times when employees need direction from their managers, but that should only happen when absolutely necessary.
If you’re an owner or CEO, talk to your managers and determine if this is happening. Develop a strategy together on what constitutes a problem they can solve independently and when and how a manager should step in.
For managers, when staff members come to you with minor problems, you could say, “I’d love to help you with that. Out of curiosity, how would you handle this problem if I wasn’t here to help?” Or, if it is a problem that requires your help, say, “I can help you with that in twenty minutes. But I need you to bring at least two suggestions.”
By making these suggestions, you empower your team to figure things out for themselves instead of telling them what to do. You want your team to be as self-sufficient as possible.
You have the opportunity to break the cycle of learned helplessness within your company. When your people feel empowered, they are more likely to
• Maximize productivity, profitability, and motivation
• Trust leadership
• Have higher self-esteem
If you’re looking for ways to empower your team, here are seven things you can start doing today
• Challenge people (within reason) to step out of their comfort zone
• Forgive mistakes – if your team isn’t making mistakes, their goals are too small
• Praise strong effort – it is more important long-term than pure talent
• Listen – many employees are scared of speaking their mind to their boss. Let them know they can
• Believe in your employees – discover what individuals do best, and have absolute faith in them
• Promote a healthy work-life balance
• Lead by setting a bulletproof example of what great leadership entails