By: Angela Schloer
As a manager, are you doing most of the “thinking” and “problem solving” for your team? Do you feel like you are spending a lot of your time solving technical issues instead of leading?
It’s so easy to get into the habit of “I’ll just do it myself” instead of spending our time enabling our staff to do things on their own. This may work for us in the short-term but it will take a toll on us and our team in the long-term. Other than the traditional “training” and “teaching” efforts, how can we get our team members to become independent?
As managers, how can we enable our people to think for themselves and take on the kind of independence that we need from them in order for us to focus on our department’s strategy and long-term goals?
One great tool that you can start using is coaching. Though it may take some initial investment in time and focus at the beginning, it will surely pay off in the long-term. The ICF reported, as early as 2009, that professional coaching increased work productivity by around 70% on average. We, at CLEAR, have experienced an increase of between 40 – 100% in our clients’ KPI accomplishments when projects were part of our coaching program versus those strategic KPIs that did not use a coaching process.
Coaching sessions can be formal one-on-one meetings or more informal conversations that can happen on the work floor. Some coaching questions can be asked to challenge our staff to build the critical thinking muscle and a problem-solving mindset.
So, instead of solving someone’s problem and answering their questions straight off the bat, why not try and challenge your staff to find the answers for themselves? This way, they will learn to problem-solve first before running to you for answers all the time.
These are some of the questions you can ask:
- What do you want to accomplish? What’s the desired result that you want to happen?
First, make sure they are clear about the goal. These questions clarify the goal of the employee in relation to the issue at hand. Getting them to think of this and clarify this will enable them to start thinking of the appropriate solutions.
- Have you encountered this issue before? What did you do that time that worked? If it didn’t work before, what did you learn about how to manage the issue differently this time?
Most people have encountered similar issues in the past but they don’t normally think of the learning they took from those experiences. Highlighting these past successes can sometimes make people realize that they know the answers and don’t actually need you to spoon feed them.
- What research have you done to try and solve the problem yourself?
There is a lot of information available to all of us at a click of a button or through asking the right people the right questions. It’s important to let your staff know that they can look for information themselves instead of asking you to solve every problem they encounter. The more they can do this independently, the more they can build their competency and sense of confidence for future issues.
- What options can you think of that would resolve this issue right now?
We can sometimes get stuck when problem-solving where we feel there is only one way to handle situations. The more options you and your staff can generate to solve issues and problems, the more confident they will be in doing this on their own in the future. Then, you can focus on weighing how each option can contribute to the goal they want to accomplish (as per the first question above).
- What will you do now and when will you get it done?
Getting a commitment in terms of action points and a specific timeline will enable you and your staff member to follow through and it’ll make following up easier.
- When will we meet again to check on your progress?
It’s important to be specific about follow up meetings/sessions so that you can still support any issues the staff encounters along the way and they can report on their accomplishment. By closing the loop, you can have peace of mind that things will get done and your employee can feel that they are being supported.
If you want to learn more about our coaching framework and build a coaching culture in your organization, don’t hesitate to leave us a message! 😊