Management Zen – Avoiding problems
Bosses get every employee’s problems
Being the boss sounds great. But the reality is that you’re not just responsible for your own problems, you’re responsible for everyone else’s problems. Pretty soon people are bringing you their problems in an unending stream. Now how are you meant to do your own work when you have so much of everyone else’s to do? This leads to stress.
This management problem happens every day
This is a typical management problem and there is a super simple technique to solve it. This is another one of my ninja management skills that I show you in WWW.BOSS.CAMP because when you get it right it’s like magic. If you’re not signed up yet, don’t miss out. What you do is that you catch their problem and then you give it back to them. And I’ll show you how you can do this and achieve management Zen. Keep Calm It’s not your problem.
Being the Boss comes with power and responsibility
The reason why problems come to bosses is because it’s totally natural. Your staff have problems and they want help. You’re the expert, you have the authority, the experience and the relationships. This means you can sort out the problem faster than they can.
Your own habits are causing your problems
But like a Pavlovian response, when you fix their problems you are training them to bring you more problems. So the more problems you fix, the more problems you get until you’re totally snowed under. It’s much better to train them to fix their own problems because then you will get fewer and fewer problems…
The problem is that you’re too smart
But you need to fight some of your own natural tendencies. I bet that you love solving problems, especially if you’re a High C personality type like me. (If you don’t know what that is, you need to DISC. It’s how managers deal with diversity managerfoundation.com/disc). Admit it – we love the opportunity to show off how smart we are. It’s difficult not to blurt out the answer when to us it seems so obvious to us!
Tough love for bosses
It’s perfectly natural to want to help someone out. Somewhat controversially you need to fight the urge to help because it’s better in the long run. Now that’s not an excuse to be nasty because you will get better results by being supportive. This is like “teaching a man to fish, instead of giving a man a fish”
The 1st Management principal – staff are there to help
The first thing to understand is: when your employee brings you their problem it’s not your problem – it’s theirs. The whole reason you employ staff is to do things for you.
Your employees are capable when they have to be
Have you ever noticed how your employees will desperately be trying to get a hold of you, texting you, calling, emailing. Then you get out your meeting and ask what’s so important and they say: “Oh we had a mini little crises but don’t worry about it we managed to sort it out.”
But avoidance isn’t the answer either
Now the temptation is to apply MBA, also known as management by avoidance or exception. But that’s not helpful either because after all – what is your use and purpose as a manager. Doing management by exception can make your employees lose respect for you or even dislike you as I explain in .
Managers must be demanding and supportive
And I believe the best managers are both demanding and supportive at the same time and this is a great example of where you can be both. When an employee has a problem this is a great opportunity to encourage them to higher performance by demanding that they solve their own problems. But it’s also your opportunity to support them to grow.
A quick example dialogue:
The scenario is a typical manager problem, your employee Dave wants to drag you in to mediate a dispute. The dialogue would be “Yes I understand that you’re having problems with Jo – she can be very demanding. And I want to be clear that I can’t manage your relationships for you. As part of your job, I expect you to ensure that you have functional relationships. I’d like you to tell me how you’re going to fix this issue and I’m happy to give you some feedback on whether I think that will work or not. In addition if you like we can put effective communications and DISC onto your development plan. Because if you learn these skills you won’t have these problems with Jo in the future”
Secret Ninja Manager Skills
BOOM! And that’s why I call this secret ninja manager skills. The employee has come to you with a problem. You’ve turned it back on them. You’re both demanding and supporting them to get better. In a super quick way.
Now how about you? What problems have you got on your to do list?
I bet that right now your to do list has got a bunch of stuff on it that is solving employee problems or doing things for employees. Imagine if you could get rid of these. How much time and effort is this going to save you? My challenge is: make a list, aim for at least 3 items. Check your email, your calendar, your to do list – they are hiding out there somewhere!
Next step: Practice and Give the problems back
When you get good at this, you’ll do it automatically when your employees bring their problems to you. But for now it’s best to practice your dialogue offline. Take the items on your list and prepare to jettison them. Not sure how – see the end for more on the step-by-step process.
Done right this builds employee motivation and job satisfaction
When you pay attention to each step you will also be building your relationship with the employee. Because you’re showing that you care and you are helping them to grow. And people want the flexibility to do the job the way they feel is best. When you let your employees choose their own solution instead of telling them what to do, you are giving them this flexibility. Problem solving for employees makes people feel powerless.
This is why this is a sweetspot management technique because not only will this help to solve your problem which is good for you as the manager. It’s also good for your employees because it provides the intrinsic motivation that comes from growth, good relationships and autonomy.
Some of the other benefits:
- You’ve avoided mediating between the parties. The problem with mediating is that you’re guaranteed to disappoint at least one party!
- There’s no getting involved in a he-said, she-said fact finding mission
- You’ve saved yourself the time
- You’ve developed employees skills plus improved their accountability and problem solving
FAQs and problems
Understandably managers have concerns and questions. These are some of the most common. If you have any other questions please ask:
What if they can’t do it?
People are incredibly resourceful. They might not know how to fix something the way you would but you’d be surprised at what a sufficiently motivated workforce can achieve. As an extreme thought experiment. Imagine their lives depended on it. Would they still not be able to fix it?
What if it’s inefficient?
So you can fix it in 5 minutes and it takes your staff member an hour. So the maths says that it’s better for you to fix it – right? Well no because you can’t fix everyone’s problems. All those 5 minutes add up until you can’t do your job. And if this is part of their job then it’s an investment for them to learn how. You can be sure they will get better and faster.
What if it's slower? Management Myth: Efficient is better than effective.
The other fallacy is just because you can fix it faster doesn’t mean this is the faster way to work. Because your employees have to wait for you to fix it. By the time they’ve spoken to you and you’ve found time to take care of the problem in your busy schedule, easily a week could’ve gone by. When your employees don’t have to wait for you to fix their problems, things happen faster.
What if it goes wrong?
I totally understand. You’ve got high standards, you’re smart and you don’t want stuff to go wrong. I can’t guarantee you that this won’t go wrong. In fact I can virtually guarantee that this WILL go wrong at some point. If you do this 10 times I bet that maybe as many as 5 will have sub optimal results the first time. By this I mean you could’ve done a better job yourself. And let's not pretend, as positive as I’m feeling right now, there will be some things you just have to do yourself. And the first few times you do this, you will not be very good! Practice to get better. Even if all that happens is that you avoid some of your problems. I believe that doing this properly will actually decrease the risk of something going wrong, not increase it. But there’s always the chance that something will be the exception. As they say, no risk, no reward. If you’re not prepared to take the risk then this isn’t for you.
What if, What if?
Now I bet that you can think of a hundred reasons why this might not work. My experience is people are very good at creating excuses! It's amazing how creative people can be about creating scenarios where something can go wrong! Usually that's an indication that they don't really want to do something. People that use this technique have more good results than bad. If you expect it to fail it will.
What if it goes right?
On the other hand, if you like the thought of taking back control of your working day and going home on time then I challenge you to see how far you can push this. In my opinion getting rid of half the problems isn’t a bad place to start. What do you think? Sometimes done is better than perfect. And as smart as you are motivate your employees enough and they will do a better job than you. Because they’ve got more time than you. And maybe they’ve even got skills that you don’t. Your employees are closer to the problem than you. What if they do a better job than you? Could you handle that?
What is this worth?
In your opinion, what do you think the immediate and long-term benefits will be? In your time and money.
This is a secret ninja management technique that you can use to maintain calm and avoid problems. Do it right and you’ll not only get your time back but build employee skills and motivation. Avoiding problems is a great way to achieve Management Zen. So the next time your employee comes to you with a problem, Keep Calm and Give it Back.
The step-by-step How to Process
Knowing and doing are two different things. The way that you do this will affect how well it works. Luckily I have a mini program for those that want to use this technique. This program shows you how to put together each of the 5 steps. This includes the exact words you use (which no-one else does). And it explains the important psychological motivators to motivate your employees to solve their own problems. I also provide example dialogue.
Want to Be a Better Boss to Make Managing Easy? Don’t forget about WWW.BOSS.CAMP