Solving problems for employees is like playing a game of fetch and that’s not a good thing.
What do you say when a person gets into the habit of coming directly to you with a problem and asks, “What do you think I should do?”
Your subconscious urge will be to provide you recommendation, or even make the decision for them. Your ego gets stroked because you get to play “the expert.” It feels good.
I call it “chasing the bone.” Someone throws you the bone, and you run off to fetch it. You bring it back excited. You get to feel like a hero. Mission accomplished.
But if you are their manager / leader, I suggest you are making a big mistake without realizing it. Unwittingly you make the person dependent on you for problem solving and decision making. You are missing a valuable coaching opportunity to grow the capabilities of the person.
Rather than being an effective delegator, you have become the victim of “reverse delegation.” Your people won’t think through the issues and make decisions, because it’s easier to come to you. When people become dependent on you for decision making, this makes you a bottleneck to company growth.
It’s time to take control (no more chasing the bone!).
Stop playing the hero, and start developing a team of people who can think for themselves and make good decisions.
I recommend training your people to use GROW framework:
- G = Goal. What is our goal here? (State the desired outcome. Make sure everyone is aligned on this)
- R = Reality. What is the reality right now? (State the facts)
- O = Options. What options do we have? (List all options, and the pros and cons of each option)
- W = Will. What will we do? (State recommended course of action)
Take control, by throwing the challenge / issue back to them.
I even encourage people to present issues to me in writing using this exact framework, so I can discuss their thought process with them and understand how they came to their conclusions. You GROW your people by turning each suggestion or problem they have into a valuable coaching and teaching opportunity.
Yes, things may take longer to resolve initially, but you must be disciplined if you want to stop getting sucked into “reverse delegation.” Whenever someone comes to you asking what they should do, push back, and ask the person to go away and present their issues to you in this manner until it becomes their new default behavior.
Your ultimate goal is to coach your team members to use critical thinking to solve problems and make great decisions without you needing to be there all the time.
Alternatively, if there are decisions where they really do need your input or sign off, you want them to present a range of options (ideally at least two) along with their thoughtful recommendation as the decision they would make if it were up to them to decide.
This makes your job so much easier. You are now becoming a leader who is growing a team of leaders.