I once asked a Boss I was coaching, “ Did you employ the people working for you to use their hands or to use their brains”. Being in an office environment the answer was, obviously, to use their brains. This discussion led him to realise that he was doing all the thinking. When asked by a subordinate for advice on how to deal with an issue, he would give all the answers. Often when the subordinate did not seem to understand fully or seemed reluctant to continue with the issue, he would take on the task himself. He was burdened with an overload of work and struggled with his time management. He felt that as he was the Boss, it was incumbent on him to provide the answers and that his team relied on him to do so.
Subordinates asking advice were continuously interrupting him on issues that, quite frankly they should have been capable of handling themselves. Having being interrupted on a subject he was dealing with, it took some time for him to recollect his thoughts and move on with the task he was working on. This added further to the pressure on his time.
As he was doing the thinking, his subordinates were not learning how to resolve the issues themselves. Perhaps they relied on him as it was either easier for them to just pass the difficult issues on to him, or they had not gained enough experience to find the answers themselves. With him doing the thinking they were not developing their own skill sets to do the thinking themselves.
Having realised that he was doing all the thinking and a lot of his time was being wasted, this Boss changed his approach and began a new habit. In future he resolved not to respond to a request for advice with answers but to rather ask a simple question – “What do you think?”
The initial reaction he had from subordinates was surprise and a little confusion, as they were not going to get the answer they were looking for. Some immediately volunteered an answer and others went away promising to think about it. It was not long though before the message was clear: Don’t ask the Boss for advice unless you have thought it through and have a proposed solution.
Over time, subordinates learnt to figure out how to resolve issues or how to move forward with confidence on a project that they were working on. They got on with it without resorting to asking what to do or how to go about it.
This was a Win Win for everyone as employees became more motivated doing work the Boss trusted them to do, using their own initiatives, and the Boss eventually overcame his pressure on time.