You may have heard this proverb:
If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
This makes sense to me. Sometimes people ask for your help with a problem, but they really want you to solve it for them. If you do, you’ve satisfied their immediate need but not set them up for future success. You’ve just taught them to call you whenever they encounter that problem.
I don’t believe in leaving people hanging when they ask for your help. Instead, I believe in supporting them. I won’t solve the problem for them, but I’ll be there to help them think and navigate through the problem. I make it a point to not lead; instead, to follow their direction. I try to support, nudge, and encourage along the way. When the problem is solved, they’ve solved it—I haven’t. The process of figuring out the solution sticks with them, and they can comfortably solve problems like it in the future on their own. And you’ve helped them become more confident. When someone succeeds in doing something they thought was impossible, they become surer of themselves and their abilities. They start to look at other problems not as insurmountable but as puzzles they can solve if they focus and put forth the effort.
I’m not sure who wrote this proverb, but it’s spot on. I prefer to teach someone how to fish.