As leaders and managers, we tend to take our fulfillment from answering questions and making decisions. While these are very important things we do, we need to make sure they are done appropriately and at the right time. If we simply “do” all the time, how do we mentor? We need to make sure we develop our teams to be able to take on more and more responsibility as they grow. If all they hear from you daily is “do that” and after that “do this” when is there decision making turned up? Answer: (see I just did it, jump in to answer). Eventually, their problem-solving muscles are going to atrophy from lack of use and they will begin to be discouraged and even look for other opportunities where they will be able to contribute more. Nobody wants this to happen. We should want our teams to feel empowered, that their opinion is important and it does matter to the business daily. So, let’s talk about how we change this approach as there are a couple of simple things to do. Simple yes, but training our “reacting” muscles to do them can be challenging.
If you have always been a problem-solver the team will notice your changes immediately. Be prepared to address why the change is necessary. Let them know that you want more out of them and trust them to do more. Also, share that it is a work in process and may take some time to perfect the process. So, how do you facilitate it? There are two techniques that are most effective.
First is the simple “What do you think we should do?” or “How would you handle this?” questions. These will put your employee on the spot for sure and they may not have an answer the first couple times, but do not jump in. I know this will be hard not to do because old habits die hard. Silence is valuable and you must let it happen. The answers will come, but not from you. The second builds on the first. Simply ask your team when they bring you a problem to have at least one solution to share with you. This will do one of two things. It will either encourage them to share and express their thoughts or it will force them to think on their own.
These are both simple things but require a large amount of discipline from you to make them happen. Your team will see the change and begin to adapt to the “new you”. This will encourage and empower them to be better managers and leaders and help them grow for their own chance for further advancement. In the end, is that not what being a great manager is about? We want to make our teams better and stronger. By doing this you have increased their accountability and they no longer have to defer that to you. Now, you are asking them to share in that role and become what they set out to be in the first place. This all sounds interesting and probably some things that could work, but… What do you think?
Wishing you success and growth.