Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Words Managers Are Afraid to Say

There is a huge impact on the organization when the managers are not having the right conversations with employees.  If critical conversations are avoided because management feels they lack sufficient knowledge in that area, the company could be operating with blind spots. So the notion of being afraid to tell your people you don’t know, you were wrong, or ask them, “what do you think?” or “what would you do?” is a formula for a struggling organization.

I have seen smart managers come up with all the answers.  In the end, his employees became
resentful and sat back and watched the manager solve all the problems.  As long as the manager had “the right answer” the other employees were not able to contribute.  Unfortunately, that manager stunted his and his company’s growth.  All problem solving depended on him.

One way to solve that particular problem was to take the manager out of the operations room. Once that happened, employees had to make the tough decisions themselves.  As they became more confident in their problem solving abilities, they became a huge asset to the organization.  In fact, the operations team became a competitive advantage for the enterprise.  That only happened because the new manager used the Socratic approach.  He started asking what would you do if I were not here?  Can you explain what will happen if…?    

Asking questions serves several purposes.

  1. Develop leaders – successors
  2. Creates problem solvers who can function independently
  3. It ensures your people feel valuable to you and the enterprise

To develop leaders, it is imperative for people to learn new skills and competencies as well as a new mindset. As the company grows, they will be able to lead initiatives. In times of constant change and global competition, no one should have the same job functions from one year to the next.  Therefore, as a manager, you should be working to make yourself obsolete. To do that, you will have to find a successor and delegate.

There is another way to leverage the use of questions. Let your people have the answers.  There are times when you may know what to do.  However, it is more valuable long term to ask your people to solve the problem for or in partnership with you.  As your people become accustomed to your dialogue, they will have a process for solving complex problems.  As a manager, this frees you up to focus on larger issues, instead of putting out fires your people are not comfortable handling. 

In cases where the manager does not know the answers, get feedback from your people. Surely they will feel you value their input. Besides, the smartest managers rarely have all the answers. He hires smart people. What is the sense of having smart people if the manager has to have all the answers? Asking questions is a way to empower your people and extract intelligence that may not have been used.  

When your team or company grows, your direct reports develop a sense of pride knowing they contributed to the growth.  Asking your people questions empowers them and makes them feel valued.

What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, connect through my blog www.turnaroundip.blogspot.com.

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