• Jacqui

When Helping Doesn't Help

I was recently on a course where the issue was raised about what a struggle it can be to learn, adapt and change. The following story was shared during the discussion, highlighting the inevitability of struggle, how it is part of life. And that constantly shielding ourselves and others from it, no matter how well intentioned, curtails what we are capable of being and doing.

In a position of leadership and management, the temptation to constantly wade in and ‘save the day’ can be incredibly strong - but it is worth pausing to ask the question: Do I really need to step in or is this a good learning opportunity? Because often, your people will learn more and be more effective in the long run from working it out themselves.

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole. Then it stopped, as if it couldn't go further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bits of cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily but it had a swollen body and shrivelled wings.

The man continued to watch it, expecting that any minute the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body, neither happened. In fact the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around. It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand: The restricting cocoon and the struggle required by the butterfly to get through the opening was a way of forcing the fluid from the body into the wings so that it would be ready for flight once that was achieved.

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