Don’t Give Your Employees the Solution – Give Them The Tools They Need To Solve It Themselves Instead
Recently, someone came to me to help them find a solution to a business problem. I managed to help them find the best possible solution. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t actually give them the solution. What I did was help him walk through the issue and discover the solution himself simply by providing a little information, asking questions and challenging him to think about it.
During our conversation, he was initially disappointed that I couldn’t tell him what he should do. The reality is that the situation and details were complex and applying my own take on the situation with limited information and not knowing some of the subtleties of the situation would probably resulted in the wrong advice.
So instead, I told him about some of the factors and issues to consider and the different kinds of solutions that *might* work, along with why those solutions are typically employed.
Then, I probed. I asked several questions about his particular situation, which he had to think about. Then, based on his answers, I asked some more in-depth questions.
As he began to think about his specific issues and situations, combined with the information I provided to, the solution to his problem became clear to him. All he had to do was connect the factors, issues and potential solutions with his in-depth knowledge of his specific issues, to come up with a solution that worked.
Even with my much more extensive knowledge and background, It would have been impossible for me to give him a solution to his problem during a simple conversation, which is what he was originally hoping I’d do.
Instead, I equipped him with the tools he needed to solve his own unique problem. Now, hopefully when he encounters another problem, he will be able to use apply those tools again and have the confidence that he can work out the solution. In a past role, I often asked my staff to always have a potential solution to any problem they came to me with. They also needed to identify benefits of their solution, risks of following their solution and what options there were. Even if their solution wasn't the right one, possibly because there were issues or background they didn't know about, at least they were thinking. And many times, their solution was a great one, even better than the one I might have suggested. That's the power of having smart staff who think for themselves.
When dealing with your own staff who come to you to solve a problem, take the same approach to help them work through a solution themselves. It’s an excellent way to develop your staff, giving them the tools and the confidence to solve a problem themselves and only come to you to confirm their solution will work in the bigger picture (which you can provide) instead of expecting you to solve all problems with what is often an incomplete appreciation of the details.
That’s leadership. Remember, when you have smart solutions oriented staff working for you, you will be more successful.