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Stop Providing All The Answers

Part of developing your team is to help them learn to make their own decisions and solve their own problems. Sometimes it’s necessary to provide the answer but in the majority of non-urgent situations providing a solution might be quicker, but is not essential.

If you give a quick-fire answer every time someone raises a question it will inhibit the application of knowledge and ultimate growth of the team. Today’s employees (especially millennials) expect training that helps them learn skills to develop their career. If they don’t learn that they will forever be dependent on you. Long term that places far too much responsibility on one or two people and will reduce workplace efficiency.

How can you help your team to develop their problem solving skills?

Encourage team members to think about possible solutions and come to you with that in mind. If it’s appropriate to do so, ask them to try and bring several potential solutions when they come to you for help.

Give them suggestions on how they can go about starting to solve the problem including finding out relevant information, which will then help them formulate an answer. This could include giving them names of other employees that they can talk with or existing resources that may be helpful.

Discuss options with the employee. Ask questions as to why he thinks this option might work and why, what the preferred solution is and why and what adjustments or refinements might need to be made.

Asking questions can help employees think through all the facts of a situation and maybe come up with a solution in the process.

Sometimes the proposed solution really isn’t the right one. Be positive and tell your team member that, while this one won’t work for the reasons discussed, the effort was good. Ask the employee how he can take this away and build on what he now knows to reach the next step in the decision making progress. Asking questions is like giving pointers to stepping stones but allowing the employee to work out the answers.

Support the efforts of problem solving activities. Be patient with mistakes and allow them to be part of the learning process. A Harvard University research team conducted a study at a hospital to determine what made employees more likely to report errors and offer solutions to those problems. Though error reports rose 5% during a patient safety campaign, the frequency that employees offered suggestions to reported problems increased tripled because managers were instructed to be proactive in responding to error reports and not chastise employees or get frustrated with them.

Managers who are patient and encourage employees to develop problem solving skills will almost always get better results than managers who don’t.

There are always going to be times where it’s necessary for you to intervene, make the decisions and take charge. But for all others, start developing employees’ decision making and problem solving skills. Though it can be uncomfortable initially for employees to take ownership over solving their own problems, they will become better at it over time. Doing so will enable them to become confident and effective problem solvers, and potentially help pave the way for some of them to take on leadership roles in due course.

We deal with the good, the bad and the ugly of HR. If you need help resolving problems with developing employees’ decision making skills or any other HR issues, give us a call on 01908 262628.

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