Can you relate to either of these leaders?
- Dave’s observed that his direct reports don’t come to him unless they have button-down plans for moving forward with an initiative.
- Jill can’t find time to focus on her key initiatives because she has a revolving office door which has her continually providing support to her direct reports.
Dave and Jill are on opposite ends of the spectrum around providing the right level of support to their reports. Like many leaders I meet, neither Dave nor Jill is in best place on the “support spectrum” to get the maximum results from their team.
Are you at the sweet spot on the “support spectrum”?
If not, here are three suggestions to get there:
(1) DROP YOUR “BRING ME SOLUTIONS, NOT PROBLEMS” POLICY
Dave in the example above holds a “Bring me Solutions, not Problems” policy. This policy has noble roots…it’s designed to foster highly efficient conversations with empowered team members.
And it has a dark side…
If your boss were to tell you they only wanted to hear about issues when you have a recommendation to address them, how open would you be about a messy situation you just can’t find a solution to?
If you value your reputation with your boss, you’ll keep the issue under wraps until there’s a solution to report. Often, that will mean an issue goes unresolved for too long, while a key person who could have potentially expedited a solution and brought resources to the table is left out of the loop.
As Colin Powell has said: “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”
When a leader welcomes displays of “imperfection” and creates an environment of trust with his or her team, the team members know they can show up with challenges, knowing they won’t be judged for needing support.
Is it time to reconsider your policy about how issues are communicated to you? If so, it may be time to have an open conversation with your team about how you interact with them around issues.
Building trust with your team to the level where they can be vulnerable with you is not an overnight endeavour, but it’s certainly a worthy one. The more you build trust with your team, the more you set your team up for success.
(2) STOP ENABLING – START COACHING
If you’re more like Jill in the example above, you’re challenged by having your team members come to you for support too often.
When this happens, there is often an opportunity for the leader to ease up on creating dependence by continually providing answers to their team members.
The alternative? Using coaching skills to support team members in developing their own solutions. Coaching effectively builds their confidence and their capability to solve both problems at hand, and future problems, on their own.
And coaching sessions where you bring your ideas into the mix (but only as needed!) allow everyone to benefit from your expertise in a productive way.
Another factor that will build the independence of your team members is to empower them to make more day-to-day decisions without your approval. Challenging your reports by delegating more responsibility to them, while supporting and championing their success is a key to growing your team and your business
(3) INTERACT WITH INTENTION
What both Dave and Jill have in common is the opportunity to interact with their team members with more intention.
So a couple of questions you may want to ask yourself before your next interaction with a team member…”What’s my intention for this conversation? And how can I best act on that intention?”