Home » How Ego Blocks Engagement

Having just wrapped up two more Front Line Leadership programs, it never ceases to amaze me the amount of potential in the leaders taking the course. One of the requirements of graduation is for each participant to document how they have applied elements of the course and the impact it has on their department.
In today’s LeaderFeeder I will share an example of how one brand new supervisor was able to get his team to think more independently and be more accountable just by making a small change to his leadership approach.
A majority of front line leaders (team leaders, lead hands and supervisors) are promoted from within. They get promoted based on having strong technical skills, a good work ethic and a positive outlook. They are usually good problem solvers and want to be helpful. This helpfulness can create an ego where they think that they must solve every problem in the work group.
As these new leaders transition from being workers to being leaders, they face an interesting challenge.
If they continue to answer every question and solve every problem brought to them, the workgroup will become dependent and the sense of fulfillment they receive from their leadership role will diminish.
One new supervisor put this challenge to the test. Only having supervised for a couple of months, he found that his employees would be constantly bringing him questions and issues. And he would cheerfully give them answers. Then, as suggested in the course, he reflected on the fact that for 80% of the questions, the employees had the experience and knowledge to solve the problems on their own.
So he made a simple change. Whenever an employee brought him a question or problem he thought they could solve, he simply asked, “What do you think would work?”
Initially the employees were surprised that he would trust them enough to solve the problem. After a couple of days he found that the number of questions and problems brought to him diminished to only those that needed his involvement.
The employees didn’t realize they were “allowed” to decide certain things. The level of positive attitude and motivation increased because the employees felt that the supervisor trusted them.
It is amazing that such a small change in approach can have such a significant impact on the morale, attitude and productivity of a department while at the same time making the supervisor’s job easier.
Reflection Questions

  • If you are in a leadership role, are there questions you answer and problems you solve that you know could be handled by your team?
  • If you are constantly giving answers, how does it impact your job satisfaction and the morale of your workgroup?
  • How would your leadership role be more rewarding if you could get the team to solve most of the problems they encounter? 

Action Items

  • Size up your work group – do they have the capability to think more for themselves without coming to you for every little question and problem?
  • Begin asking, “What do you think would work?” when you are presented with a question or problem.
  • Give coaching to help the employee make better decisions and develop good judgement.
  • Give positive feedback when the employee takes initiative to solve problems on their own.
  • Enjoy having some extra time to focus on bigger issues and problems that need your attention.