We’re always encouraged not to quit. But today, there’s one role I’d suggest you walk away from right now that is the cause of most of your problems and challenges.
Get your head out of your spreadsheet for a moment. If you really want to become the type of leader who truly inspires, transforms talent and delivers rock star results, you're not going to find the answer in your data or reports. That's why it’s time to abandon toxic thinking and focus on the inner game of leadership.
Beliefs Precede Experience
If you’re only focusing on the metrics, KPI’s, and skills needed to become a champion and you aren’t focusing on how you think, your attitude, and your mindset, then you’re only developing into half of the champion you can be.
Sometimes, becoming the leader who inspires, drives positive change, and authentically develops their people requires giving something up. That’s right. In order to grow, you have to let go.
“So, are you ready to turn in your resignation today as Chief Problem Solver?”
A bit reluctant? I can understand why. After all, if you're no longer going to be the CPS, then what role are you going to take on? The one as coach. But before we begin that transformation, it's important to have a clear understanding as to why leaders fall into this toxic management trap in the first place.
Why is it that leaders feel they must be the subject matter expert for their team, have all the answers and solve all the problems coming at them?
For one thing, the majority of leaders, regardless of geographic location or industry, would agree that the value they feel they bring to their team and to their company is their experience and their ability to solve problems efficiently and effectively.
After all, that’s why you were hired to be a manager in the first place, right? Or better yet, you were a super salesperson and someone in management thought it would be a good idea to take their top performer out of the field and away from the customer and put you in the role of sales manager—without any training, coaching, or onboarding!
How to Disempower Your Team
Let’s explore this at a deeper level to identify what’s really at stake. For example, if you were my manager and every time I went to you seeking help, you provide me with the answer or solution instead of coaching me to self-assess and work through my challenge and arrive at my own solution, what reaction might you get from me?
“Wow boss, you’re so awesome, smart, and experienced! I don’t know what I’d do without you. Thank you so much for helping me! And thanks for continuing to solve all of my problems (so that I don’t have to think on my own).”
Here's where leaders learn the wrong lesson. It is in this defining moment when the leader reinforces the misbelief that their overarching value is being a subject matter expert.
Why are leaders compelled to provide answers and solutions? Because when you do, you get to feel the love! You feel included. You feel special. And most important, you feel needed and valued. The Ego is being fed. You are now making this entire exchange about you and how you feel, rather than focusing on the other person and leveraging the developmental opportunity for someone else to shine and grow.
Many leaders also believe it’s expected of them. “Well I’m a leader. My direct reports expect me to have the solutions.” Maybe so, but where do you think they learned this from? Clearly, having a team who is overly reliant on you comes at a great cost.
Two very misunderstood and overly used words today are "empower" and "coach." Not only are these words used out of context, the majority of leaders who think they're empowering and coaching people, in fact, are not.
Here’s the definition of empowerment: to give strength or power to. Unfortunately, it's not empowering to provide solutions to someone. Put yourself in their position for a moment. Do you think they feel empowered when they're being told what to do, instead of being asked?
When you’re giving the answers, you’re not empowering someone. You’re disempowering them.
The Gift of a Challenge
Just think about the last time you were presented with what may have been initially perceived as an insurmountable problem or challenge. You took the challenge head-on, and you worked through it on your own. Do you remember how you felt? Probably really good. It may have even boosted your confidence, as well as your skills and competencies.
As a manager, every time you solve other people's problems, you're robbing them of this experience. You're not building their confidence. Instead, you're depriving them of the opportunity to feel exceptionally proud of the work they do, their contributions and their capabilities. And you're certainly no longer developing these people into the future leaders of your organization.
Leaders Create What They Want to Avoid
Another leadership paradox exists. We create what we want to avoid. Leaders create the very problems and challenges that they wish they didn’t have to deal with.
I have yet to meet a manager who doesn’t want a team of highly independent, accountable team members. But follow this line of thinking — if I’m your manager and every time you approach me with a problem I give you the answer, what’s the underlying expectation being set? That every time you have a problem, come to me and I’ll fix it for you.
Here’s the painful irony. If the answer or solution I provide you doesn’t work, whose fault is it? It comes back to me.
“Hey boss. You know that solution you shared with me? Well, it didn’t work. It’s not my fault. I was just doing what you told me to do. My hands? They’re clean on this one.”
When functioning as the Chief Problem Solver, instead of authentically coaching people to generate their own ideas and solutions, you're the one who's now responsible for the results. Your people are no longer accountable for the outcome and you've also succeeded in making them more dependent on you.
Remember, people resist what they hear, but believe what they say.
If you want people to take greater ownership around their roles, goals, and the daily challenges they face, let the right question be the answer they need to further develop and refine their skills, thinking, and strategy. Otherwise, if you continually solve everyone’s problems, their problems become your problems—ultimately making you accountable for the outcome!
Change the Conversation
After thirty years of coaching thousands of international leaders who are working at the world's most innovative and successful companies, I can say with great certainty, coaching is simply a learned language. It’s a way you choose to communicate and engage with people because it supports the very ideals, values and culture that most companies and leaders want to create.
Consider this truth. If you have time to be the Chief Problem Solver, fight fires, and solve other people's problems every day, then you have time to coach.
About the Author
Keith Rosen is the CEO of Profit Builders and the award winning author of Coaching Salespeople Into Sales Champions, the #1 book on coaching used by the world's top sales organizations.
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