A free monthly newsletter by Weiman Consulting. Subscribe at www.leadershipfirst.com. Feel free to forward!
- Quotable: They Said It
- Five Ideas for Helping People Solve Their Own Problems
- The Micro-Management Trap
- Now an E-Book: Managing Stress
- Readers’ Forum: Your Observations
- Subscription Information
Quotable: They Said It
“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” – Stephen Covey
“I don’t deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don’t deserve that either.” – Jack Benny
FIVE IDEAS FOR HELPING PEOPLE SOLVE THEIR OWN PROBLEMS
If you’re like most leaders, you’ve noticed that people often bring their problems to you. They want you to solve them. Because you’re good at it. And, if they’ve established a long-standing pattern of doing this, then they’ve also established, in their minds, a very strong connection between coming to see you, and the problem going away. Because you start solving it.
But what you really want, as a leader, is a staff of people who solve their own problems. So how do you get them to start solving them BEFORE they come to you? Here are five ideas:
- Hand the problem back. Instead of solving it for the person who brought it to you, ask them if they’ve thought of any ways to solve the problem. If they say, “no,” just ask them to go back to their desk and see if they can come up with three ideas for resolving it. Be very specific about the number you ask for … they will begin to problem solve more effectively if you ask for a specific number. Even if they have what seems like a humorous or way-out idea, ask them to include it – this encourages creative thinking.
- Have them put it in writing. The best way to learn how someone thinks is to look at their thought process in writing. When they’re ready for you to look at their ideas, ask them to put it in the form of a memo.
- Ask them to weigh the pros and cons. Good problem solving involves weighing the pros and cons of each option. Ask them to include in their problem solving memo an analysis of the pros and cons of each option they suggest.
- Put them together with a partner. Although not always true, two heads often are better than one. If there’s someone you think is particularly good at problem solving, ask the person who’s bringing their problem to you to work on solutions with the “good” problem solver. Be open about why you’re doing it: So that they can have a model for excellent problem solving.
- Ask them to enact the chosen solution. Taking action is the final part of any problem solving process. Whether you make the choice from the options they present, or they do, give responsibility for taking the action to them. It will give them closure on the process and allow them the experience of DOING something about their own problems.
It takes a little time to get someone onto the track of solving their own problems. But when you succeed at helping them do that, you’re developing a critical leadership skill that everyone in management must have to succeed.
THE MICRO-MANAGEMENT TRAP
The head of a fast food chain still approves the color and style of employee name badges. The managing partner of a law firm individually initials each photocopy of firm-wide memos to make sure that each one is copied correctly. The president of a major electronics distributor decides what sodas will be sold in the warehouse soda machine.
While many business leaders are proud of the fact that they are “hands-on,” examples like those above illustrate the fact that the line between effective management and in-effective micro-management is broad and blurry.
According to classic leadership books like Warren Bennis’s “On Becoming A Leader” and Kenneth Blanchard’s “The One Minute Manager,” a key leadership skill is the ability to delegate. But delegating even the most minute tasks makes many leaders so anxious that they’re compelled to do those tasks themselves. Even when it’s clearly not in the company’s best interests for a top executive to waste valuable time approving the purchase of minor items like name badges.
So why do so many executives do the little things themselves? The more minute the task, the more likely that the executive is either having trouble relinquishing control to other people in general, or that they are experiencing a loss of control in some area of the company or in their private life.
While the executive gains a feeling of control by making as many decisions as possible, the losses to the company can be substantial, including:
- loss of the executive’s time, needed for more important activities like guiding the company or finding new business
- loss of self-confidence among subordinates
- conflicts with subordinates over decision-making control
- making entire staffs feel like children by having to request permission for minor purchases or activities
There are a variety of ways of redistributing responsibilities so that executives are free of the details, including creating a simple diary of tasks over the course of a week or two and then identifying those that can be delegated, who could do them and how they should be done.
But redistributing the tasks isn’t the difficult part … it’s helping a top executive or departmental manager see the negative impact of what they believe is not only positive but necessary. If you’ve tried confronting a micro-manager directly over this, then you’ve learned the hard way that micro-managers don’t obsess over details because it’s logical, they do it for emotional reasons. And that makes it very difficult – although not impossible – to change. But it’s a slow process and one in which the manager’s fears of what will happen if they delegate are incrementally addressed over time. If there’s a micro-manager in your professional life, drop me a note at email@example.com and tell me about what’s going on.
ABOUT DR. WEIMAN
David A. Weiman, Psy.D. is a psychologist who specializes in executive assessment, development and consultation. For information or a confidential consultation, please call 610/642-3040.
333 East Lancaster Avenue, Suite 202
Wynnewood, PA 19096-1929
(610) 642-3040; Fax (610) 642-3041
NOW AN E-BOOK: >Managing Stress
My new guide for executives, Managing Stress, covers what stress is, how to recognize it, and how to manage it so you can achieve your goals and get back home by 6 o’clock! You can get it as an electronic book at my website, www.leadershipfirst.com/managingstress.htm.
<Reader’s Forum: Your Observations
Have a comment about something you read in this month’s newsletter? I want to hear it! Mail it to: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like me to use the question on my website or in a future issue of Leadership Update, let me know and I’ll include it!
To subscribe to this newsletter (if you’re not already a subscriber), send e-mail to email@example.com with a message SUBJECT of: Subscribe.
To unsubscribe to this newsletter, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with a message SUBJECT of: Remove.
© 1999-2012 David A. Weiman, Psy.D., PC