NextGen Know-How: How to get employees to handle problems themselves

Learn to lead and develop your team by facilitating, not fixing.

When I first became a manager, I thought my job was to give instructions and answer questions. No one sat down with me and set expectations on how to effectively lead a team. I wasn’t provided with any leadership training. One day, I was just given the responsibility to supervise someone.

So, I became a fixer. She had a problem; I would fix it. After all, that was my job, right? Over time, my employee would interrupt me more and more often to get her immediate questions answered. Sometimes she just wanted to “run things by me” to make sure she was making the right decision. Looking back now, I realize that I perpetuated this issue by always having the answers to her questions. I would quickly take care of the problem for her and then try to get back to my other, higher priority tasks. But by quickly answering her questions, I was teaching her to upward delegate all problems to me.

Upward delegation is a challenge that can keep you from focusing on more strategic or important work as a leader. Upward delegation is when your employee relies on you to solve problems and fix issues for them. They shift the ownership to you, their manager, instead of solving the problem on their own. And it’s not always their fault. As managers, most of us were taught that our job is to do just that—fix problems and handle issues—and we, in turn, teach that to our team members.

The challenge is, if your time is spent on constant interruptions and “fixing,” you will rarely find the time to work on your most important key result areas and priorities for your role. Your day will be filled with a barrage of issues, interruptions and emergencies. The more employees you manage, the more challenging it will become to be successful in your role.

 

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