"My team takes up all my time..."

2 October 2019


I thought I'd share a story that happened just last week.

One of my coaching clients was complaining about having no time because his team were constantly coming and asking questions that he felt they should know the answers to.

He explained, "It's annoying you know... because I know they already know how to do this work.  But they come and ask me questions and just 'check' before going ahead.  It takes up all my time.  I know they're just being cautious and want to do a good job but I can never get anything done..."

So I asked him,  "Ok, when someone comes and asks you one of these questions you think they should know the answer to, what do you do?"

He said, "Well, I get them to take me through the problem, and then I ask what they think we should do, they explain their solution and it's always right, so I encourage them that they knew the right answer and to go ahead."

Can you see the problem?

Without realising it this manager is actually demonstrating that he doesn't trust the employee to make the decision.

When you trust someone to make a decision you don't need to have them go through the solution with you - that's mentoring.

What's the solution?

Here's the response the manager needs to give next time someone comes and asks one of these questions, 

"Go ahead and do whatever you think is best, I trust you."

10 seconds instead of 20 minutes.

After you do this a few times the person will stop coming to you and start acting because you're not just saying 'I trust you', you're demonstrating it.

Here are the caveats:

  • You should only do this for things that you genuinely believe the person should handle themselves.  Plus, make it clear that this is the type of thing they can handle without coming to you.  You don't want to give the impression they should never come to you, just not for this type of decision.

  • You should expect some mistakes.  Be prepared to sit down afterwards and work through any mistakes made.  Work through these in a collaborative way.  A great way to do this is with questions like:  "Ok, so that didn't go as planned, what would you do differently next time?"  This is a great way to build Psychological Safety in your team (more on that in another post).

  • Because mistakes are possible, you shouldn't delegate decisions that, if incorrect, could have a seriously detrimental affect on your business.  I mean 'show stoppers'.  You want to be involved in those decisions or processes and it's important that your people know what these are.  

My advice - if your people take up your time with trivial questions or decisions it's time to look at your own behaviour.

Have fun

Brett Baker :)
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