Giving Solutions vs Letting Your Team Figure it Out—What do you do?
- Published: Monday, 08 February 2016 21:44
The more leaders micromanage, the less ownership opportunities they provide for their team members. Maybe more importantly, the less team members take ownership. Their thinking is, “Why bother? My supervisor is just going to change my idea and send it back to with suggestions.” Imagine yourself a reporter given an assignment by your editor. You complete the article and submit it. The feedback from the editor and your peers is that you did a great job! Then in the excitement of the good job, you are flooded with suggestions on how to make it better. The suggestions are good, it just that the article is not yours anymore. It is the editor’s.
Effective leaders don’t micromanage for a whole host of reasons. It doesn’t develop new leaders—an important function of leadership in my opinion. It undermines the power and confidence of your teams and potential new leaders. It doesn’t allow space for your team members to become problem solvers, just to implement what you offer as solutions. Now, to be clear, of course, there is a time and a place for experienced leaders to offer advice and direction. The question is when to remove the “training wheels” and teach people how to go it on their own (in another post we can talk about the importance of moving from managing to monitoring)
Most leaders have gotten to where they are because they were good at their jobs and they kept getting promoted. So to many people it makes sense to keep doing what is working for them. That is how they got to where they are, right? Here is the an essential point—as workers or team members become leaders they need to make the jump from an individual worker making an individual contribution to being a developer and nurturer of others—a leader. They need to allow others opportunities for ownership.
In the book The Awareness Paradigm, author Nancy Hardaway teaches leadership lessons by telling us a story. One of these stories is about a young owner of a brewery. She gives a leadership consultant a tour of her facility and during the tour they are constantly interrupted by staff asking for guidance. At the end of the tour, the consultant shares some insights with the owner:
“When you’re good at something, it’s easy to get caught in it, to have it become your default and not a choice. You’ve been doing it so long, it’s easy to think no one can do it without you. Then it becomes self-fulfilling. Your staff ends up coming to you for everything. You have all the answers so they keep coming…You’re a great at solving problems. So you keep solving the problem for them. You’re giving them the solution rather than making them figure it out a solution which help build the skills you want them to have. Plus, your reluctance to have them fail means they get reluctant to make a mistake. So they don’t want to try anything with checking with you.”
These kind of leaders often mean well (there is the leader that is power freak and just doesn’t want to give up the power, but we are not talking about them right now), but in the end hurt their team more than help them. The more people feel ownership of their work and their role, the more they feel a responsibility to get it right and do it right. This in turns builds pride and self-confidence. One view of leadership presented by Heifetz in his book Leadership without Easy Answers is, one of mobilizing people to tackle tough problems, problems that have not yet been solved. This means the effective leaders trusts his team to work on the problem and come to their own conclusions, their own answers.