The Difference between Helping and Fixing

Leaders are there to help, managers to fix.


Probably hard to claim this could be the final truth.

When helping someone then (obviously) you have to know better or more than the person you are helping. So, helping in ‘the wrong way’ demonstrates non-equality of the people involved thus becoming a relationship between non-equals.

HelpThere are times when we help a friend or co-worker during tough times. Does this kind of help require (owe) a favor in return? Or, is this help a sincere one with no expectation of returned favor?

Trying hard to help someone has it happened to you that you have inadvertently ‘helped’ in a way that it actually took away from people more than you could ever “give” them?

I remember my first weeks arranging my life in Seville. I was so many times lost and had to ask for help. And most of the times I got it only to discover that people, in their desire to help, sent me in the wrong direction.

There’s another way to help: we could help in a way that the receiver will eventually develop new abilities or knowledge and not just receive your help and your past knowledge.

And what would a help with a sincere and open approach be like?

Picture a small kid playing with toys: trying all over again to build a tower with bricks and it keeps collapsing all the times. After a while you step in and demonstrate how to do it. What exactly have you thought the child by your action? That depends on the way you have helped: you may have as well diminished kid’s self-esteem, sense of worth, integrity and/or wholeness. But, the help could be given with the right stimuli, motivation and by asking what goes where … it is a proactive way of helping that ultimately builds trust and knowledge.

With a sincere help you simply share your knowledge or you figure out what’s your help’s value to other person or when you give a transparent feedback. You do not expect anything in return. You just help the other to grow and learn. Help is also when (good) leaders take the time out of their busy day to help a follower or co-worker in need but unable to solve a problem. They’ll sure remember your help.

What about ‘fixing’?

Fixing definitively means a form of judgment. Between the parties involved, judgment creates disconnection, distance, and most of times judgment demonstrates the power of difference. When someone ‘fixes’ work or job attitude of other it demonstrates that there is an inequality of expertise, the power of rank and, in final instance, a moral distance.

Fix‘Fixing others’ most probably shows a lack of trust in them. It is a way to show the fixer’s knowledge superiority and the scarcity of it on the other side. Many years ago I had to prepare a business plan together with my boss. All he ‘contributed’ was correcting (fixing) my grammar errors. I asked for his feedback on the content I presented and not for lecturing of the text. My thoughts and feelings at the time was ‘What is he doing on this position if he does not have a clue about the content we were supposed to come with?’ I understand now that, since there was a lack of knowledge my boss’ intended to hide it by demonstrating his ‘power’ through grammar corrections.

Many years of practice had to pass before I realized that it’s not my place to ‘fix’ anyone according to my views or to judge them even when they take a false path.  But I can always give a suggestion not fix!

If there’s anything to be done then I strongly suggest quit fixing and start believing in others. We could not know what’s best for people, and it’s not our job to know that. The best thing we can do to help (but not to fix) is to be present, to be there for them. Whatever the title, whatever the job, we help the people around just by being present and being patient.

If asked for advice, I can share my insights from my own journey. If a person chooses to take the advice or not it’s none of my business. Be curious, see what a person already knows before you offer an advice.

walking our own journeyThe next time you think a team or a person needs to be ‘fixed’, ask yourself how you can help and not how to fix. We are all walking our own journey on our own paths. Your path may be next to or intersecting the path of the people you meet but ultimately your road and theirs are different. Remember, we can never walk their path and they cannot walk ours. They have their own lessons to learn and their own journey to take.

So, ‘correct’ helping – yes. Fixing – not!


  1. I agree with your point of view about the concept of helping and fixing. Fixing, in my opinion, is a vast term relative to helping. It has vast scope and has very different meaning from helping.

  2. Thank you for supportive opinion.


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