On Being A Natural Helper

When I was much younger, I was a Natural Helper.

I mean, we even had  high school meetings on the ability to discern real emotions within our peers, in and out of school. We were taught to find the relationship between what was troubling a student and a possible solution to end their woes. We learned that in life, as many of you already know, nothing is certain except change. We also learned that whenever we feel alone, we only have to look around to see the millions of other folks feeling the exact same way.

We are never alone.

To be honest, and years later as a tough-minded (but fair)  Navy Chief, I’ve come to know the significance of those moments of sharing tears with 25 of my closest teenage friends.  We were taught that our feelings, which often trick us into thinking we’re less than who we really are, were created to allow our souls some breathing room during the toughest or happiest portions of our lives.  Tears, both the good and bad ones, give way to the necessary closure than many of us never get a chance to tackle in life.  Often, tears give a bit of flexibility in our way in handling a situation; but more often than none, we learn to take those tears as powerful tools that give us the motivation and strength just move through the experience.

So, as a Natural Helper we were taught to see issues as they are. We were taught to empathize and appreciate that sometimes in life, things tend to shatter and our responsibility isn’t entirely in the act of acknowledgment, but rather the process of moving forward afterwards with a positive implementation of change. We were not taught to be psychics, psychologists,  or counselors, but quite the opposite.

We were taught to simply be human.

M.C. Davis

2 thoughts on “On Being A Natural Helper

  1. The title Powerful Conversations: How High-Impact Leaders Communicate led me to believe that this book was primarily concerned with interpersonal communication. I found, however, that it is largely focussed on the ethics of leadership and the philosophy of emotional intelligence as applied to big business. The book is of high calibre in this respect, and for this reason I gave it 4 stars. But if you are looking for a hands-on manual on communication you will need to look elsewhere.

    Anyone who is sufficiently motivated to read this book will no doubt be already aligned with the basic philosophy of trust, openness, honesty, and clarity. The challenge lies in implementing such a philosophy. No doubt Harkins takes a more practical approach in his corporate training programme, and it would be a very large and expensive book if it were to contain such a programme in full. However, I find it frustrating that Harkins spends far more time explaining why than he does explaining how. Some methodology is woven into the text, but on the whole, the presentation focuses largely on principles and attitudes.

    All of these elements, of course, provide a necessary foundation for any system; after all, rote behaviours are largely unsustainable. But there is also a need for clear directives on the progressive action steps that need to be taken. The book must serve exceedingly well as a door opener for corporate clients, but the owner/operator of a small business will not find definitive steps that he or she could progressively implement from the book alone. I should add that I am not advocating the rigid paint-by-numbers formula that some other motivational books follow.

    What I most question is Harkins’ representation of trust as a primary focus, rather than as an outcome of deliberate and conscious process. Trust, far from being a subjective quality only, is an objective competency that employees as well as their leaders must progressively develop and demonstrate. For example, in his book, Leadership, Rudolph Giuliani describes the functioning of his mayoral team with great frankness. In so doing, he demonstrates clearly how trust is not assumed at the beginning; it is developed over time and established through frank and honest appraisal of each team member’s verbal and practical input. I miss this in Harkins’ book.

    I have nevertheless reserved a place for Powerful Conversations on my bookshelves. But to round out Harkins’ perspective, I have added books like Rudolph Giuliani’s Leadership, Jim Loehr’s & Tony Swartz’s The Power of Full Engagement, Dorothy Leeds’ The 7 Powers of Questions and Meryl Runion’s Power Phrases. Together, they make a mighty team.

  2. S.J.,

    Thank you VERY much for your insight, as I agree with several of your points. Often, after reading a book that’s left me entrigued, I’ll find the quickest way to exercise the points made in the book into a real situation at work or otherwise. In this case, I felt like his points were primarily geared in laying a basic foundation in what leaders should collect in their “tool bag of leadership”. I didn’t think the text took the notion of a step-by-step guidebook to leadership, but rather an approach in seeing “trust” as a major stepping stone in how leaders can truly motivate teams and individuals from a 360 degree approach.

    As you stated, trust is often understood as an “objective competency” that the employee base must eventually learn to filter and understand. Systematically, I’ve learned, especially being military for almost two decades, I’ve seen trust thrown out the window in a moment’s notice when weakness or too much uncertainty peeps its ugly head in the door. So, trust, along with several layers of other emotionally intelligent factors should also be strategically used to motivate a team to think like a team, and not as a glorified bunch of individuals.

    Again, thanks for your input and your voice. Believe it or not, these discussions points truly help shape the relationships we forge in and out of the office.

    Or battlefield.


    M.C. Davis

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