Are you often frustrated and disappointed when you try to delegate, only to find the work show back up on your desk again – for YOU to complete?
I was recently talking with a colleague who was frustrated with a consultant she had hired to complete a technology transition for her company. She wondered why she kept having to answer the same question over and over again for a variety of spreadsheets. The consultant repeatedly asked the same questions and queried already discussed historical facts. Exasperated, she began to make extra-long notations in the spreadsheet, which added more and more work to her already overflowing plate. Problem NOT solved.
How frequently do you have team members or employees asking you the same question, looking for the same information, seeking the same instructions time and time again?
If you’re like many of my colleagues and clients, you will dutifully answer the question and provide the information needed to the person asking. After all, isn’t that what managers are supposed to do to support their teams?
Time out. Do you see the issue?
We create a cycle of dependency when we are always the point person providing the answers.
Being the answer person leads you to create an arc of dependency. Your employees, consultants, and others become dependent upon you to do their work for them; the work of thinking and figuring things out. How do you advance critical thinking and problem-solving skills in others if they don’t have to stretch those muscles?
Here’s what to do instead:
Bounce it back.
The way out of codependency and into a team of creative problem solvers is to break the cycle of being the only one with the answers. Of course, you have the answers, but how did you get them? You earned them through your critical thinking and problem-solving. It’s important to foster that in your team.
To have a true culture of accountability – a culture where the team volunteers to be accountable, resourceful and responsible — you must bounce them back to their own problem-solving and information-gathering skills.
- An employee asks you to make a decision. Do you need to make this decision, or does the employee have authority? Whenever possible, encourage the employee to make the decision. It builds accountability muscle.
- Your next-level manager asks a question that you have previously answered. Encourage your manager to remember the previous conversation. Ask them what they know or how they would answer the question if you were not available.
- A team member is looking for industry information. Invite them to do some research and then bring the info back for a brainstorm.
- A supervisor brings you a problem. Before you begin offering advice for a solution, ask them what they have tried. Ask them how they would solve the problem. Ask great questions to elicit their great thinking.
If you want your organization to have a culture of accountability, the best behavior to adopt is to bounce your team back to their own critical thinking and creative problem-solving. You do that by coaching them, not telling them.
Ready to improve your coaching and leadership skills? I invite you to download the first two chapters of my book. The download is free, and you’ll find more information in the book excerpt.