As leaders, we are often approached by our team members who need help. They’re struggling to think through a technical issue on a project, a relationship issue with another team member, or even both. How do we avoid the trap of trying to solve our subordinates’ problems and help them think better at the same time? Here are three pointers to keep in mind:
1. Avoid giving advice. We want to get our employees to think for themselves. Giving them the answer in the form of advice doesn’t support them in becoming self-reliant achievers.
2. Be neutral, yet positive. Staying neutral in a situation doesn’t mean that we are cold; it just means that we don’t take sides in the team member’s situation. At the same time, we keep a positive attitude about the person’s abilities and competence. They will pick up on this and feel more confident about trusting their own thinking.
3. Use open questions that focus on your team member’s problem-solving process. You don’t need all the details of what’s happening. By getting the team member to think about their own process, they can start to reason their own way through the problem. This will ultimately improve their thinking so that next time, they won’t have to come to you at all.
What tips do you have for helping employees solve their own problems?