Leadership Tactic #59: Don’t Fix Things Without Asking

A string of circumstances lately has made me think about the value (or lack therein) of fixing things for other people without asking. People’s intentions can be so good, but so counterproductive.

Because some things are broken for a reason.

Example 1: A few ladies were recently preparing for a wedding reception where I work. While I was at my computer, I suddenly heard them shouting my name from the dining room.

I ran over to find one of the ladies laying on her back on the floor, desperately grasping the center leg of the huge dining room table to prevent the whole table from cracking in half. It’s an old table with a middle leg that leans to one side, and she had tried to fix it. Good intentions, but in trying to fix it, she almost made it much, much worse.

Example 2: My former roommate’s parents came to town and stayed in my condo while I was in Virginia. During that time, her father decided to fix the headboard of my bed, which was detached from my bed and leaning at an angle against the wall. So he reattached it (despite my thoughtful roommate’s warnings).

What we didn’t know is that I had purposely detached the headboard because of a squeaking sound it makes when I…sleep. The harder and more vigorously I…sleep…the squeakier it gets. Again, good intentions, but it actually caused me more work and aggravation than if he had not tried to fix my stuff (plus, any man should know that you do not go into another man’s home and try to fix his stuff without asking. That’s just a slap in the man-face).

Example 3: I was dating a girl a while back (one of the lovely women who has asked that I don’t use her real name on this blog), and I was staying over at her house for perhaps the first time. At some point in the night, I crept off to use the bathroom. While I was washing my hands, I noticed that her hairbrush was packed to the gills with her hair.

So I thought I’d be super sweet and remove all the hair for her.

The following morning, the girl asked me why I would possibly think that removing the hair was a good idea. Apparently she really liked the way the brush ran through her hair when it was clogged up like that, and now she had to start all over. Good intentions on my part, but really not my place to touch her lady instruments.

Can you think of a time when someone has gone out of their way to help you, but because they didn’t get all the information from you first, they ended up making the situation worse?