Tips to Get Your Team Members to Think for Themselves

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In our pre-training surveys, one of the top frustrations expressed by front line supervisors and managers is when a team member brings questions, decisions and problems to the leader that the employee could likely answer, decide or solve on their own.

It is tempting to blame the team member for avoiding accountability. However, before we blame them, we need to do some self-reflection to see if we are encouraging this behavior.

In the spirit of being helpful, many leaders become the equivalent of a human Pez dispenser — like those candy dispensers with the head that pops up and a candy comes out.

If it becomes easier for the team member to ask the leader the question instead of thinking for themselves, they often seek the path of least resistance and keep asking you the questions.

Here are three tips to get your team members to improve at answering their own questions and thinking for themselves.

#1 Ask questions

When one of your team members asks you a question you think they should answer for themselves, ask them what they think would work and see if they know the answer.

Beware of the husband strategy — that is, doing a job just badly enough not to be asked to do it again. The goal is for your employees to get better at answering their own questions.

#2 Teach instead of spoon-feeding

When you do have to answer questions or solve problems for your team members, be sure to take a few extra minutes to teach them and explain what you’re doing and why. That way they can learn to be more self sufficient in the future.

#3 Trust them to do their jobs

Do you enjoy it when your boss micromanages you? Of course not. Nobody does, and yet based on observations and the conversations we have in our leadership training courses, approximately one third of people are being micromanaged and they like it as little as you do.

Your role as leader is to clarify the expectations, provide the resources and apply positive or corrective consequences based on the results.

Interfering with the work of your team members reduces accountability and makes the team more dependent on you.

Describe the job you need to get done, the expected output and trust them to complete the task.

Your team will appreciate the trust you place in them. As they become more empowered and self sufficient, they’ll become even more motivated and engaged. You will free yourself up to do more important and interesting tasks.

As you get your team to think for themselves, continue to invest in your ongoing development and you can do that by visiting us online or join with other like-minded leaders on our Facebook page.