Your business is only as strong as the individuals within it. Operational success is greatly enhanced when team members are taught and continually encouraged to use the power of their own minds rather than becoming dependent upon you — or others — for answers.
There’s a tendency among business owners and managers to simply give their team members answers rather than helping them find the solutions they seek. This is often due to a false belief they’re saving time. While perhaps true in the short term, this approach actually costs more time (and money) in the long run as team members increasingly rely upon supervisors for answers and solutions.
It’s also important to understand that team members who don’t feel safe asking questions will often guess at best solutions and actions. This frequently leads to errors that have a ripple effect throughout business operations: mishandled accounts, disgruntled vendors and dissatisfied customers. Business operations are hurt and precious resources spent repairing both the error and client relationships.
So, how do we encourage people to develop and use their own intelligence? This is a powerful question. The answer can lead to marked improvement in performance and results: By learning to use effective communication to encourage people to think their way through the situations they face.
n Step one: Create a safe environment in which your team members can ask questions. This is accomplished through a commitment to never becoming disappointed, frustrated, angry, judgmental or condescending with anyone as you work together toward a solution. Build a positive environment where your team members feel safe exposing what they don’t know and learning new things.
n Step two: Encourage team members to ask questions and not guess about the correct course of action to take. Help them to see the strength in using available resources to create successful solutions. When you respond in constructive ways (versus reacting in negative ways) to a team member’s lack of understanding, they’re encouraged to seek knowledge and become a great asset.
n Step three: Take time to explore the situation at hand. This is a critical component to your success: Rather than simply telling your team members the correct answers, ask them questions about the situations with which they’re dealing. This will also allow you to discover their level of understanding about those situations.
n Step four: Have team members describe all the solutions they see and continue asking open-ended questions to fully draw out their perspectives. If their perceptions of the solutions aren’t accurate, further questions will help them deduce the best possible solutions.
n Step five: Give them the opportunity to teach back to you what you just taught them. This will demonstrate whether more work is needed, further ingrain the lessons they’ve learned and build their confidence.
As you actively pursue this new mentoring approach over time, you’ll learn how to maximize your work with each individual member of your team. And you’ll earn greater levels of trust as they learn they can work with you to develop their ability to make sound decisions. This creates a very strong bond between you and your team. Your team will grow stronger, fewer errors will be made and the company will deliver a far greater experience to clients.
There’s a choice to be made regarding the development of people: You can either make them dependent upon you for solutions or you can empower them to look for answers on their own. In every instance in which I’ve coached company leadership in the proper methods of using effective communication to develop independent, motivated and thoughtful team members, the organization — and everyone within it — has experienced greater levels of happiness and success.
Remember: Through a lifetime of experiences, people have been told who to be, what to do and how to think. Many people have been conditioned to rely on others for answers instead of learning to think and act on their own. When this previous conditioning is understood and overcome, individuals access more of their potential and perform at higher levels. The results are astounding.
When you take the necessary time to help your team members explore situations and think their way through them to successful solutions, you’re fundamentally guiding them toward personal empowerment. This lessens their dependence on you, grows their abilities, strengthens your business and improves your company’s overall performance.