Demand More Solutions
As a boss or business owner, do you find yourself being the “answer guru” for all problems big and small? Is there a perpetual line of employees streaming in and out of your office, looking to you for the answers to all their problems? If so, you’re probably guilty of a common leadership sin: spending too much time on the “Trivial Many” instead of the “Vital Few.” Stop this madness now! For every problem that employees bring you, insist that they bring you two solutions. Transform these co-dependent problem communicators to independent problem solvers, and then develop and empower them to manage those solutions to the best of their abilities.
Here are some tips to help with that process:
Let go of being the answer guru. It’s really not your job. Being the leader is. As mentioned above, that means it’s your duty to focus on what’s really important (the Vital Few) and leave the details and minutia (Trivial Many) to those who can tackle or quickly manage them for you. It’s also your job to develop your people and help them become problem solvers. Finally, it’s your responsibility to avoid burnout and minimize stress by managing yourself with discipline and balance. Part of that is learning to delegate more or simply say, “No, I’m not going to solve that problem right now or today. It’s something someone else can or should do.”
Assign problem ownership to the proper owner. (Hint: That’s not you!) When your direct reports walk into your office, view them as a source for solutions. Ask them to bring you solutions and give them the opportunity to tap their resources and creativity to do so. The answers don’t have to be right or even perfect, but they do have to be theirs. This gets them invested and instills accountability. Note: If you see that their lack of skills is a roadblock to the success of their proposed solutions, do your best to train, coach or teach them whatever it is that they need to know. Such an initial investment will pay off.
Resist the urge to trump someone’s good idea. Even if you believe your approach is the best, sometimes embracing a direct report’s mediocre solution can be more effective than your “better solution.” Particularly if the matter is not urgent or critical to the company’s health or viability, roll with some of the solutions just to see where they go and give your direct report an opportunity to see his or her solution in the works. This is a coaching technique, not unlike letting a football player suggest a certain play that you might not think possible or appropriate. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, but one thing is for sure: No one will truly know until that football player is given the ball and empowered to try that play.
What are some other tips for generating solution-oriented, independent employees?