Stop Wasting Your Time Solving Problems
Many leaders and managers have a compelling; even perverse interest in fixing things. Average managers solve problems and get results. Great managers build people.
A recent conversation with a new manager reminded me that it’s all about people. If you build them, they will fix problems and enhance productivity, not you. If you build them, they will deliver results. I asked Joe (not his real name) how things were going with his new position. He feels frustrated because of the people problems he’s facing. No surprises there. I listened while he explained a couple issues.
While listening, I wanted to jump in and solving things but that won’t help much. Joe needs to solve his own problems. As Joe’s story wound down, I looked him in the eye and said, “You have the qualities all good managers have.” He smiled and said it felt good to hear someone outside the company say that. He doesn’t need a solution; he needs courage.
Problems shake the confidence of new leaders/managers and make them forget they have what it takes. Instilling confidence in them is more important than solving problems for them.
Don’t solve people’s problems give them confidence they can solve them.
You’re missing the boat if you:
- Think more about processes than people.
- Jump in and help people solve problems.
- Fix rather than build.
- Speak more than listen.
You’re on target when you:
- Let them talk about problems while you talk about their strengths.
- Explain why you believe in them.
- Honor their hard work rather than their frustrations.
Training or other resources may be required to solve problems; however, instilling confidence comes first.
How do you instill confidence in the people around you?
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This is so true. I dare say most leaders have the wrong focus. The great ones I have met are conserned about the welfare of people. The people will win the war for you. Again thank you for your words of utmost wisdom.
One of my first ever leadership lessons was that a leader’s #1 job is to build their replacement. The general principle of investing in people can’t be overstated.
I always like how James Hunter puts it: The ultimate test of your leadership is are your people better off after their time with you. If we’re investing in others, that can’t help but be the case.
I often find that the people you describe as ‘missing the boat’ are those who enjoy doing the task more than leading others. For example I often work with engineers who are becoming leaders and they love solving problems and doing the engineering. This often gets in the way of leading and developing others. It takes a real transformation for the not to solve the problem but help others to do so.
I love what you are saying here Terry. I agree that we have different talents and the clue is to be true to self and given talent. Insight into self is essential. A person who try to be omnipotent is both annoying and embarressing. Giving you self and other a break, being true and genuine is always – in all situations – the best way. Only you can be you – only I can be me and …… who will be me if I am not me?? Then there will be an emptly space, a vacant seat . And ultimately an undone job:)
Perhaps they shouldn’t have been assigned leadership roles in the first place? If someone is great at solving problems, promoting them to a place where they handle people instead seems like a backward step.
Instill confidence in people by listening to them, not solving their problems, believing in them and helping them see their own resourcefulness… asking ‘presupposition’ questions like “when this happened before what did you do then?”, “how did you know how to do that?”, “what’s your gut teling you?”, “think of someone you admire… How would they handle this?”. Everyone is resourceful… They just need help seeing it 🙂
At one point in time, I actually thought that assisting others to solve problems was a helpful act. I think that even if it comes from a helpful place, there are definite pitfalls and the sentiment – helpful – would not be a word I now attribute to doing others’ problem solving for them.
For instance, the outcome is really being dictated by the person giving his/her input. That seems to be somehwat arrogant and disempowering and smacks of micromanaging.
I like to think that effective leaders assist others best by helping them realize they already know how to fish 🙂
Hi Dan, Points 2 and 4 of the missing the boat section, I’m sorry to say resonate with me! I’ve learnt that if you listen and communicate with people effectively, they’ll come to you for advice and explicitly ask for it. When a person feels like they’re understood they’ll feel open enough to ask what they can do or how they can be helped.
There’s a missing component in your post. Having people solve their own problems is the right path, but only works if they are empowered (there’s that word again) to do so. If your organization allows managers not to respond to queries for information or action from people junior to themselves, people *must* come to you, their manager, for a solution. This kind of thing happens every day in traditional, pyramid-style organizations, where information and requests must be funneled up, over and back down to be considered.
So, doing away with that kind of structure might be the first step.
Thank for your ever-thoughtful posts!
I enjoyed your post and I think the opposite of your four points on missing the boat is crucial leadership qualities that needs to be developed.
Leadership is all about people. As the almost cliched saying goes: “You lead people and manage things and processes.” When people are lead correctly with a focus on them as human beings, they will sort out the processes.
Allowing people the freedom to solve problems on their own taps into their creative genius and allows for more innovative ways to find a solution. See also “Effective Leadership Stimulates creativity at http://www.leadershipconnexion.com/effective-leadership-stimulates-creativity/.
When you build people they will do the fixing and put the processes in place. A leader needs to always build.
Seek first to understand then to be understood is one of the most important principles leaders can abide by. This you can only do is you listen much more than you speak.
Love your blog! Typo in first sentence “in” fixing things
Thanks for the heads up on the typo…cheers