It is THE word every manager/leader should become incredibly comfortable using. It is really a simple word; however, most don’t use it for maximum impact. We don’t use it as we could and should, because we don’t appreciate it as a critical aid in coaching and supporting our team members in such things as problem identification, process analysis, individual performance, and accountability.
If a team member approaches you and says something along the lines of: “There’s a problem in Shipping you need to take care of.” You typically think to yourself, “Why do I have to solve all of the problems?” Nevertheless, you respond with, “I’ll take care of it.”
But what impact would it have on your team members if instead, you replied with something more unambiguous and along the lines of:
“OK. But tell me this, specifically what have you done to fix it so far?”
I haven’t done anything! It’s not my job to fix it!
“Really? You don’t believe it is part of your job to help identify and fix problems? If you think that, I must have said something confusing in the past. Let me clarify: I firmly believe every team member has the ability to not only identify problems—as you just did—but to also suggest solutions. So, tell me: Given your knowledge of the problem, what specifically could you do to fix it?”
Here’s the tricky part: After you ask the question look at your team member and wait for an answer. That may sound really basic, but many managers ask ‘difficult’ questions and then look down or look away. When you ask a question, look at the person and wait for an answer. That sends a very clear message: I am expecting you to provide an answer.
As your team member quickly realizes you are waiting for her to answer, she may say something like, “I dunno.” When you hear that response, instead of becoming frustrated, reply, “OK, but if you did know, what specifically could you do to try to fix the problem?” Then, once again look at her and wait for her to reply. She will soon realize, she is expected to think about the problem and provide a potential solution. It will not take too long for your entire team to learn that when problems are identified, potential solutions should be presented as well.
Obviously, this type of exchange is a bit uncomfortable initially for you and your team members. However, to minimize the pressure, project a curious, encouraging attitude. Remember, you’re doing this for a specific reason: You want to help your team members gain new skills in problem-solving and personal accountability. If you keep your specific reason in mind, you’ll soon be using your new favorite word more effectively and with maximum impact.
This is a Necessary Conversation™. Learn more about how to have Necessary Conversations™ and hold your team accountable to do their jobs in my Necessary Conversations™ series.
Copyright MMX – Liz Weber, CMC, CSP – Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching.