If you’re a leader / manager, your role is not to be the best player on the field, your role is to coach the best players on the field, yet many managers, particularly new ones, still attempt to play in the game and be the MVP. I know I’ve made that mistake, and I’m guessing you might have too.
Consider this conversation:
Seller comes into managers office and says, “got a minute?” (Got a minute meetings never last a minute.). Seller explains an issue, a problem, or a challenge they are facing. With almost movie-making precision, the manager puts on the cape, puffs out the chest and solves the problem for the seller and saves the day. You’re the hero!
Lesson learned by seller: Manager has the answers, I don’t need to think or solve problems.
Problem for the manager: Constant stream of got-a-minute meetings as sellers have been conditioned to realize the manager is the hero and has all the answers.
In our quest to be respected and liked by our teams, we must demonstrate our value, which we perceive is having all the answers and saving the day for our team. Subconsciously we tell ourselves that if they come to us, they must need us, and that feels good. Laudable, and understandable.
But dead wrong.
Martin G. Moore writing in Harvard Business Review says:
“Your job isn’t to get on the field and play the game, it’s to observe the game, devise a winning strategy, and then give your team the guidance, direction, and motivation they need to play at their peak. When you do your team’s work for them, rather than guiding them and allowing them to grow, no one wins.”
Stop answering the questions, start asking them. When someone comes to you with an issue, you’ll often know the answer and it can be very tempting to just save the time, answer the question, solve the problem and be the hero. Martin suggests that a skilled leader will instead ask searching questions.
The next time a seller asks for a got-a-minute meeting, instead of solving the problem, consider at least asking several questions before giving an answer. Questions like:
- What do you think is the real issue?
- What approaches have you thought about?
- What other options have you considered?
- What does a successful outcome look like?
- Do you have the tools/resources to make that happen?
- Who else could you ask for a unique perspective on this?
- Have you ever seen this situation before? If so, what did you do?
- What do you think should be the next step?
The key is to ask enough questions to get the seller down the path of solving the problem on their own. This does take more time in the moment than simply giving them the answer but over the long-term, asking, rather than answering has two primary benefits:
- You’re teaching your sellers problem-solving skills so that in the future, they can do this without a got-a-minute meeting.
- You’re saving yourself time by not having to be involved in every single issue
Martin concludes his article with:
If you have the ambition to grow, develop, and progress in your career, your goal shouldn’t be to make yourself indispensable to your team, it should be to make yourself redundant. Build a team that can function without you, and then go to the next level and build another one. This is what will ultimately set you apart as a leader, not just a doer.
To Inspire engage, educate, equip, and empower people so that they believe in themselves, have confidence in their abilities, and achieve even greater levels of success. Feels good doesn’t it?