Dear management.

Got a problem? Don’t fix it!

One or more of the following things are likely to happen when a manager takes control when things go wrong:

  • The manager makes a fool out of himself because it turns out he or she does not understand the subject matter as well as he or she thought.
  • As soon as the manager starts to discover the complexity of the problem, he or she pulls out and the intervention was nothing more than a waste of time.
  • The problem escalates further due to over-communication.
  • The conversation shifts from solving the problem to placing blame even before the problem is actually solved.

Those are all very unpractical and unwanted outcomes, but the biggest issue isn’t even mentioned yet. And unfortunately, it happens for sure, not just maybe.

If management doesn’t trust employees to fix problems, they lose the will to engage in problem solving. As a result, slowly but steadily, a culture develops where employees simply do as they’re told and pro-activity comes to a hold. As a result, the trust from manager to employee declines further and a fully disengaged workforce is your future.

So, what should you do (as a manager) when there is a problem?

It’s actually really simple – ask questions! Starting with: “How can I help you?” and “What do you need to fix the problem?”

You are a manager and you think you know what the solution is? Good for you! Ask a question.

Don’t say you know the solution and ask people to do it. By asking a question instead of giving instructions, you sidestep all of the problems mentioned above and you show people you trust them and their expertise.

Never forget that hundreds of years ago, most people believed that about 20%-25% of people would ever be smart enough to read – perhaps we are still underestimating ourselves today.

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