super manager

Answer Man to the Rescue!


The art of delegating tasks is a small part of learning to empower people effectively. Here is the basic idea of a technique and a strategy to help you get the most from your team. 

As a coach, essentially, the goal is to delegate and not have to keep checking back on the person or the team to determine success. Much of this can be pre-determined and predictable by their “readiness” level. 

Delegation is a Strategy to Empower Individuals & Teams

The leader wants to have confidence that once an employee accepts the task, they complete it. There is nothing worse than a critical task that ties into six other things that don’t get done, and the leader didn’t know about it, or you find out too late. This situation and all other ones like it are frustrating, but my main point for you is that it is preventable by how the leader communicates and influences behaviors, both positive and negative.

super managerMany times an employee will ask you a question, and your first response is typically to answer it with a solution. When that’s the case, you own the solution vs. the employee owning it. The goal is NOT to be the Answer Man or Answer Woman. Your job is to lead, develop others, and build an enduring organization of thinkers and risk-takers, knowing not everyone is willing or able to be that kind of contributor.

When a control style management method is used, it creates mechanical employees vs. creative ones. This method also contributes to the manager managing more rather than leading. There is a difference. This strategy is part of a “participative or situtional” style of leadership and management practices. 

Rule- Input Equals Buy-in!

Here are three questions that a leader can ask when faced with an employee who needs coaching to learn how to make better decisions, and when the leader is expanding authority levels with team members. This process allows the leader to determine the competency level of the employee. By mastering this process, the leader trains the employee to answer day to day operational questions and situations themselves vs. always asking for input or approval.

By asking these questions and in this order, the answers are telling. Many times the answers are not what the leader thinks so they must learn to set their ego aside. That’s easier said than done, but it’s an essential part of growing talent and unleashing the creativity of the team. The leader doesn’t always have the best ideas. 

When an employee asks you a question, ask them these 3 questions:

  1. What specifically is the problem or issue?
    1. STP- Stop, Think, and Plan. Stop answering all their questions. Think ahead on how you will respond — plan to communicate in a way that allows others to win.
    2. Make sure they can tell you specifically what the issue is. Anything other than that, you might have a whiner on the team. To read my blog about winners and whiners, click here
    3. By consistently asking them the same style of 3 questions in each interaction in which they are asking you questions, your staff will begin to know that when you ask this, they are supposed to have an answer. No more guessing or tap dancing around issues.
  2. What are three possible solutions to this issue? Solutions that are good for the customer and good for our company?
    1. Ask the question in the short precise manner… then shut up.
    2. If you ask for one solution, you will get it. Asking for three challenges the employee to consider other options. There are always different ways to do something.
    3. Tie in the “what’s good for the customer and good for the company” challenges them to consider both. If it’s good for the customer and not the company, the solution typically isn’t the right one. If it’s good for the company, but not the customer, the solution generally is not the right one. See where I am going here?
    4. Have them express themselves clearly and honestly listen to them. If they can’t come up with at least a couple right then, say, hey think about it some and get back to me this afternoon.
    5. Don’t answer it just because they don’t have a response. Some employee personalities can manage up very well. Many times sending them back to think about it develops better responses. Especially in the early stages of using this strategy with your people.
  3. What solution do you think is the best one and why do you think that way?
    1. This starts them down the path of making decisions. By asking this style of questions consistently, the employee, before they even talk to you, will be figuring this out. That’s what you want.
    2. Getting input like this fosters creative thinking and problem-solving. Typically, most issues, especially those that are repetitive, can be quickly resolved by front line people if they know the boundaries of authority, the level of confidence management has with them, and the basic desire to do what is in the best interest of the customer and the business.
    3. Once the leader asks why then listen carefully and check your ego at the curb. Sometimes the leader must allow the employee to do what they think is best. The leader needs to lead vs. being in the day today.
    4. Let’s say they like the second response:
      1. Never say, well, that’s what I think should be done. Instead say, that sounds like a great idea, how can you implement that? When can you?
      2. Do say, I agree with you. Great idea. Can you let me know the outcome of your efforts?
      3. Let’s say all their solutions are crazy. Now, what does the leader say?
        1. Hey, that sounded like some great solutions. How does #1 affect the customer’s experience with our company? If it were you as the customer, how would you respond?
        2. If the employee is a rational person, the answers direct them to new outcomes.
        3. lf those solutions sound great; can you work on two more that you believe can solve the problem and get back to me Friday morning?

By using these techniques and strategies, you can become a more effective and happier leader. You can also improve the performance of individuals and teams. Enjoy!