You’ve been there and done it. You’ve got the tee-shirt and your experiences mean that you can cut so many corners.
So you do. It’s easier. You respond to all the requests, questions, challenges and mistakes of your people. By fixing them.
And after a while two things happen…
Firstly, you get exhausted, because everything revolves around you – every piddling decision, people wait for you.
Secondly, remarkably, your people start to leave – or give poor service – or get grumpy. Or all these, and more! How ungrateful, you’ve done everything for them…
You see, fixing things, when they aren’t working right, is a very natural instinct to use in business, when we’re the boss. This could be a team leader, a manager, a small business owner, or even a senior leader in a bigger organization. Too ‘hands-on’ happens all over the place.
It’s human nature to help people who ask us for help. It makes us feel good on a number of levels. We feel needed. We like to have a purpose for being. We like to go home each night feeling we have succeeded. And feeling fulfilled.
The easy way is to fix things.
But fixing things, especially as our businesses get bigger, means we are stretched really thinly. There is just one small layer that creates solutions and then, not only the best ones, because there is an opinion of only one. So it gets harder, without getting much better.
The longer it goes on, the more others depend on us and even if we do listen, they know in the end, we will have the only answer that counts. They do less, depend on us more. They get fed up with a lack of involvement (fulfilment of their own), we get exhausted by doing everything.
What to do about this? Well, it’s time to stop yourself doing things.
Take these circumstances into account and deal with them:-
- Physically stop yourself providing answers to problems. It gets boring with the old ‘answer a question with a question’, but you can delve a little deeper. So…
- When faced with one of your people bringing a problem to be solved, try the following:-
- Ask for more information
- Follow-up the information with more requests for information following what you’ve heard
- Ask for ideas
- Ask for thoughts that they might have discarded
- Ask about what they’ve already tried
- Find out what’s getting in the way of them finding a solution
- Check-out what worked for them in the past and can it apply here?
- Respond to ideas they might have with encouragement – if you really feel they’re barking up a wrong tree, just ask if it’s going to work and how – but nicely!
- Notice when people are uncertain about their own solutions and offer them a touching-base point for further discussion
- Be prepared to prevaricate. This is a really good tactic. By asking for some time (try overnight) to ‘think about things’, you will be surprised to find out how often solutions turn up for them
- Give away input. Create permission at certain levels for people to make decisions which you need not know about. Tell people what level a decision/solution is on and get on with it! Like this:-
- I decide on solutions
- You suggest solutions to me
- You tell me your solution and act
- You find a solution and act without telling me
- Provide an environment of ‘no wrongs’. People need to feel that it’s OK to make some mistakes, before they can risk getting it wrong a little. There’s a famous story of a Ford executive who made a big ($40M) mistake. When he came up for promotion and some criticised his candidacy, his boss said, ‘What, and miss out on the guy who’s had the most expensive training experience!’
- Use better people than you for making decisions at your weak point. If you aren’t a detail person, get help from someone who is, when it comes to making critical detail decisions
- Recognise successes in your people’s decision making and solution finding – stretch them to make more and bigger ones. Develop them on your succession plan – they are the people you need – by taking the weight off you. Shift their decision-making level as described in 6 above
- Finally. Chill! Focus on where you can take your own role and stop worrying about how many pencils one of your team is ordering. With good decision-making parameters and your trust, you won’t be getting the truck load you fear
Your people will thrill to being given some responsibility; they will truly thrive and expand their capabilities. You will relax a little, safe in the knowledge that not everything is down to you. You are building good people, as well as a great business.