I run an online community of managers called Resolve where we share and learn from each other's experiences. This question has come and here is a response from one of our community members.
Become a manager of solutions and develop your teams.
An open door does not equal being the answer database for your
employees. Becoming a manager of solutions will require re-training
for you and your team.
When I first became a Director, it was easy to default to answering
questions for my team and providing solutions. Let’s face it, it was
faster or at least it “seemed” more expedient. Truth is, it caused
dependence AND over time they were acquiescing the simplest of
decisions. They were not strengthening their problem solving,
communication or being challenged. It was also a missed opportunity
for building trust and confidence in my team members. Time for a
The new motto, “Come with an idea, solution or recommendation.” This
became so ingrained sometimes someone would pop in my door and say,
“OK, I don’t have a solution but I wanted to get your input.” Success!
They were actively seeking to collaborate and they felt comfortable
telling me so. My door was open to support them and they knew it.
With any change, make sure the team is in the know. “I noticed more
and more questions are coming to me which I appreciate the interaction
and think it could be a bottleneck. We are missing an opportunity for
professional development and collaboration as a team. Moving forward
for questions, who/what might be a good resource to consult. This
builds relationships and you will learn where things are for future
reference. I encourage you come to my office with a solution, idea or
recommendation for a problem you may be having. Doesn’t have to be
perfect, we can collaborate. My job is to support you and I think this
will allow us to be most productive.”
How to be a manager of solutions:
Become curious. Break the habit of answering immediately.
Questions to get started:
- What ideas do you have (to solve the problem)?
- Who might be a good resource to get more information?
- What have you tried/learned/researched so far?
- What are your thoughts? Have you checked/read X?
- That sounds like a viable solution, have you thought about the impact downstream?
- What risks do you see if any?
- Who does this impact?
- What type of communication is necessary?
- Is there a plan B?
- Robbie has been working on that. He would be a good contact for you to get some of the basics.
- That’s a great start. Here are a few risks I see. Taking that into account, is there anything you would change?
- We might want to try this. That information is posted. Why don’t you read that first and let me know if you have any questions or if
it solves the problem for you.
- Whew that’s a biggie. Glad you brought that up. Let me escalate and circle back with you.
Remember to fight the temptation to answer immediately and see how
your employees begin to feel more empowered.
Here are a few more suggestions from Resolve and the original post app.meetresolve.com