Ask any small business owner what they spend the majority of their time on, and you will likely hear something along the lines of:
“I spend it putting out fires.”
“I spend it answering employee questions and helping them do their jobs.”
“I spend it helping my team with problems and challenges.”
You are probably pretty accustomed to having direct reports come to you for help with problems and challenges. It takes up the bulk of your day and is often spent on fixing issues that don’t have a direct impact on the growth of your company. And I bet you often give them the answers -- "Sure, Tina. Here's what you should do….."
While it may seem easier (and quicker) to just help your team members get over any hurdles that they face along the way, you are better off letting them answer their own questions and fix their own problems.
So the next time Tina comes to you and asks what she should do, flip the question on her. Ask, "What do you think we should do?"
A Better Way
Allowing your team members to fix their own problems, takes a little bit of faith and a whole lot of professional coaching. Everyone on your team has different strengths and weaknesses, and it is important to remember that when using this method. If a team member is mature and experienced in their role I might say, "I trust that you can handle this yourself." I'll ask her how she thinks she should handle it and then encourage her to try doing that.
If a team member is less experienced, I might try a slightly different approach. "Well Jim, I've got some specific thoughts for you that I'll share in a moment. But before I do, tell me what you think you should do here? If I wasn't around, how would you handle this?"
Of course, if he has a great answer, then you can say something like, "Wonderful, go ahead and make that happen. I can't wait to hear how you do with that." And if he comes up with a crazy, outlandish idea, ask him why he thinks that's the best approach. Consider questions like, "If you weren't able to do that, then what would you do? Why would you do that instead? Have you taken these other ideas into consideration?"
Approaching the question this way not only helps you come to the best solution possible, but allows the team member to grow and develop within their role in the company. Over time they will begin to feel more confident in their decision making skills, and take on more within the business. And rely on you less to help them do their day-to-day tasks.
Once you get into the habit of having your team members answer their own questions, you will find that they will begin to take ownership of the process and come to you for the things that they truly need your input on. Thus, allowing you to create a scalable business that is owner-independent.