Develop Your Employees
Managers can help employees improve themselves by asking them questions, not just giving them answers.
by Doug Silsbee
hen a child asks you for help with homework, do you tell the child the answers and do the homework for the student? Of course not! Most adults know that to do so would be to shortcut the child's learning process.
Instead, we help children study by asking them questions that guide them through the problem-solving process. The objective is to help them learn to think and solve problems for themselves, not to provide them the answers.
Obvious, right? So why don't we follow this tactic in the working world?
In many companies, managers are far too quick to jump in and fix their employees' problems. Rather than asking them a series of questions designed to develop their thinking process and enable them to solve the problem, many managers give employees the answers or—worse yet—do the work for the employee.
No Coaching Experience
Part of the problem lies in the fact that most managers haven't been trained as coaches. They are simply doing the best they can at putting out the inevitable brush fires and keeping projects moving forward. Therefore, we can easily understand why managers default to the easiest and fastest possible way of resolving problems.
As well intentioned as this "expert" model of management is, the long-term results of being too helpful are dire. Consider the following:
• Fact: A manager can often provide a solution more quickly than it would take to discuss the problem and elicit the employee's thinking about solutions.
• Consequence: Knee-jerk first responses to problems often aren't the best responses. As someone once said: "There's nothing more dangerous than a good idea when it's the only one you have."
• Fact: In the today's high-pressure workplace environment, providing quick answers removes the tension that unsolved problems create.