How to Create Self-reliance Instead of Dependency

Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC

What happens when we keep solving other people’s problems? We create dependency and stifle their growth and innovation. Our employees and family members get lazy, stop developing their own solutions, and come to rely on us for answers and advice. Instead of telling others what to do, effective leaders ask thought-provoking questions to get them to think through possible options and next steps. These coaching skills move people away from dependency and toward self-reliance.

Many people believe they need to have all the answers and should provide solutions when asked. However, the most successful leaders know that they can accomplish more and get better results by enlisting others to develop solutions rather than solving all the problems on their own. This only happens when you teach people to become self-reliant by asking questions that get them to think for themselves rather than telling them what they should do.

The Ken Blanchard Companies training course Coaching Essentials, provides a 4-step coaching process and essential skills to develop others’ self-reliance and help them move forward in solving their own challenges.

The 4-steps in the coaching process are:

  1. Connect – Build trust and a positive relationship with the other person.
  2. Focus – Identify the topics and goals of the conversation.
  3. Activate – Collaborate to jointly develop an action plan.
  4. Review – Ask the other person to clarify next steps and what they will be accountable for.

The Essential Skills to use throughout the coaching process are:

  • Listen to Learn – Actively listen by being focused and fully present.
  • Inquire for Insight – Ask open-ended questions (What? and How?) to draw out ideas from the other person. (What is most important to you about this? What are some options? What could be the impacts of each option? What is the next step you could take?)
  • Tell Your Truth – Be brave, honest and respectful in sharing relevant information to give feedback and help the other person move forward.
  • Express Confidence – Highlight skills and successes and offer encouragement to build self-assurance and enthusiasm.

Great leaders help people develop, grow, and become more innovative by drawing out their ideas. When you promote self-discovery in others, they have ownership of the solution and are more accountable for implementing it.

If your supervisors need to develop coaching skills to promote self-reliant problem solving, please contact me for more information.  

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Ken Blanchard

“The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people.” – Ken Blanchard


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