How To Solve More Problems As A Leader

7 Steps For A More Productive Team

One of the problems I see with leaders is they solve too many problems. Wait…you just said this article is about solving MORE problems, not that I am solving too many! That is right. Sometimes we get so solution oriented, and so bottom-line obsessed, we actually make more work for ourselves. You may be sabotaging your ability to be productive when your team members come to rely on your genius and acumen instead of developing their own. They pass the ball to you to make the game winning shot because they have confidence in you and also, because they lack confidence in themselves.

Many managers I know are overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities. They spend much of their time fighting fires or going from one crisis to the next. When they do spend the time to plan, they rarely implement those plans; instead they go hastily back to their frenetic problem solving ways. Worse, they spend very little time developing the capacity of their teams. They may abdicate employee development to HR or a training course. It is time to get off the hamster wheel of crisis management! To become more productive and efficient, start investing time to develop the skills and abilities of your team members.

One of the most important tasks of leadership is to elevate the leadership capacity and problem solving skills of our teams. Managers may intellectually understand this is true, however, the following may be some reasons they don’t change:

  1. Managers are addicted to being needed:
    There is something satisfying about being the “go to person”. Some managers believe that making themselves indispensable may provide job security.
  2. Managers don’t know better:
    They have been taught their whole life to take action. They have been told what to do by parents, teachers, coaches, professors, military leaders, past bosses and more. They may have learned habits of tell and do. Because telling or dictating is a poor way to get people to act, employees of today may fall short of the “dictator’s” expectations. This reinforces the manager’s belief that his people are incapable and perpetuates a vicious cycle.
  3. Lack of trust:
    When manager’s lack trust in the ability of direct reports to solve problems or take on greater responsibility, they actually stunt their employee’s growth. This leads to only assigning tasks they are “certain” they can handle. I believe people can accomplish much more than we give them credit for. By not challenging our people, we ensure their dependence on us and keep ourselves on the hamster week. I discuss the importance of giving your people stretch assignments in How To Prepare Your Next Generation of Leaders. Giving your team members opportunities to grow means getting out of your comfort zone and their comfort zone. Let me give you an example: My son’s both play volleyball for their high school. One plays varsity and one Jr. varsity. The Jr. Varsity coach has begun a rotation only relying on a few starters. In practice, he only focuses on starters. In tough games, only this group plays and they get tired after a while and make mistakes. However, since the coach does not have confidence in the ability of the other players, he only plays the same few. While this groups ability increases, the ability of the rest of the team begins to atrophy’. The coach’s dependence on the group of starters actually increases his dependence on them. At first this is great for the starters. But they soon feel tremendous pressure to perform and with very little respite, their performance begins to diminish.
  4. Control obsession:
    Managers may be controlling in how they want things done. When team members are given authority to solve problems on their own, they may take a different approach than the manager.
  5. Confused good boss syndrome:
    Some manager’s may actually think they are being kind by bailing their team members out. They may shoulder more work thinking they are protecting their team.
  6. Managers are busy:
    They think they don’t have the time to invest in their people. They hope they figure it out on their own. After all, isn’t that what you did? What worked for you and your generation, will probably not work today. There are to many options for our employees. If they do not get what they need and want from you, they can easily get it somewhere else. The revolving door of employees adds to the lack of time managers have to train and develop. Hiring new employees takes a lot of time. Not to mention the extra work required filling the vacancies of employees who quit or were terminated.
  7. Talent hoarding:
    According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, one reason some managers don’t elevate, develop and encourage some of their top performers is to keep them on the team. It is called talent hoarding. This natural tendency to hold on to top performers will back fire and hurt the business. If these employees are not given an opportunity to grow and develop with you, they will go somewhere else. You will be forced to replace them.

Whatever the reason you are not developing your team, stop it. You will only disengage your employees. People usually perform to the level of expectation. If your expectations are low, they are probably being met, though not to your satisfaction. You then will probably shoulder more responsibility until you become at least frustrated, or worse, exhausted and burned out. And finally you may take drastic measures like quit, or fire the people you feel are making your life miserable.

I am convinced the employees we hire do not take a job hoping they will be underutilized and hoping they will underperform. They join us with hopes and expectations of learning and growing and contributing. Here are some ways to help you enable your team members to be productive:

  1. Believe they can do more:
    Always believe in the potential of your employees. You just have to figure out how to enable their potential. That comes from taking personal responsibility for their development and not blaming them for your failure to support and train them.
  2. Refuse to solve every problem your employees encounter:
    When they come to you asking for help, ask them to come up with at least two ideas for how they would handle it. You may be surprised with the solutions they find. If the solutions are not good, give encouraging feedback. This is how they learn. Repeat the process often.
  3. Brainstorm together:
    This is an effective process when stakes are high and margin for error is small. Take opportunities to work on problems together. Make sure you give your employees space in these sessions to come up with ideas. Discuss the merits of ideas and come to a decision together.
  4. Praise your team members for their efforts:
    Let them know when they do well. Make sure they are not just hearing from you when they make a mistake. When you encourage them for initiative and perseverance, you will get more of that behavior.
  5. Be willing to let your people fail:
    People often learn the most from failure. If you trust your people are doing their very best, you know they do not purposely want to create problems.
  6. Take a close look at how you may be contributing to the problem:
    The culture of your team enables the results you are achieving. The culture of your team is a reflection of your leadership. Be willing to work on yourself. Learn how you may be getting in your own way as a leader. Learn how to ask better questions that engage and encourage versus being a teller or dictator. Learn how to create an environment of trust where people work to solve problems, go the extra mile and help each other out.
  7. Make time to teach them:
    In addition to your coaching and instruction, give them opportunities to develop their skills and talents through in house and external training programs.

The investment of time you make in developing your team will come back to you. You will see your direct reports shouldering more and more of the responsibility you now carry. As they do this, your trust in them will increase. As you give them more responsibility, their capabilities will grow. The only way for you to grow is to help others grow. As that happens, the ability of the team to get stuff done increases. What if one of the people you develop does so well, they get promoted off the team? Be happy for them. Change is part of life. Train their replacement and become known for the leader who elevates and develops other leaders.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not Intention; How To Prepare Your Next Generation Of Leaders; Increase Your Effectiveness As A Leaders With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change Today; Cure For The CEO Disease

 

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, good things are about to happen. Pain is a prerequisite to cultural change, getting healthy, or improving almost any result. Last week I was in Colorado Springs for the annual PDP Global conference. Three years ago at my first conference, I wanted to see the local sights and go for a hike. My associates referred me to the Manitou Incline, the “Holy Grail” of cardio experiences. The hike is one mile straight up the mountain. You will experience almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain. At 6’7” and 282 pounds, this was a tough trail. Last year I hiked the incline and it was painful. I decided to change and get in shape. The pain caused me to lose twelve pounds and improve my stamina. I improved my time to the top this year by 15 minutes and I felt much better. Just 18 more pounds to go.

I regularly talk to business executives who seek relief from challenges and pain they are experiencing including reduced profit, financial losses, high turnover, weak succession and bench strength, or missed goals and opportunities. They want our help with an employee, a boss, a team or an entire company. When they ask for help, I want to know if they are serious about change. Organizational change must be supported and lead from the top to succeed. If the pain is not great enough, there is often little incentive to change.Manitou Incline 7-15-16

Throughout a company, there may be various levels of pain. One organization I recently met with has been having problems for years. The senior partners have been ignoring the problems and doing business as usual until recently. They are losing some of their best talent to the competition. The behavior of some the senior executives is causing new recruits to leave. The pain of departing recruits is magnified when they persuade other potential recruits they will be unhappy if they work here. Worse, they talk to current employees and entice them to leave. The problems where originally ignored as senior executives justified their behavior by convincing themselves the problems belonged to those who left.

The next levels of shareholders are clear about the problems and have been sounding the alarms for as many years. Their warnings have fallen on deaf ears until now. The pain is finally great enough for changes to begin. These senior executives have to support any change initiatives. Half measures will only prolong the pain and misery. When top leadership sit in their ivory towers and refuse to listen they allow pain to persist with their teams. Some shortsighted executives only change when they can no longer be insulated from pain.

Avoid or reduce organizational pain:

Listen to your team: They are your “canary in a coal mine.”

Take time to actively seek feedback from your direct reports.

Conduct regular employee and customer feedback surveys.

Develop a culture that is not satisfied with the status quo and strives for more.

Seek outside perspectives from industry experts, books, curricula, competitors, consultants, board members, etc.

Pain is healthy. It let’s us know something is wrong which can lead to necessary changes. Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Or do you need to be sick and tired a little longer?

Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

Read related topics: Cure For The CEO Disease; The Power Of Accountability; When Being Too Smart Hurts You; Disengagement And The Love What You Do Myth; How To Defeat The Fog Of War In Business

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