Quit Solving Your Team’s Problems for Them

How I used 3 words to empower my team & free up my time to lead

Don’t you feel good when you solve a problem at work? Doesn’t it make you feel smart, useful, and valuable? I venture to say that many of us got to our leadership positions because we’re so good at solving problems.

But if you’re going to grow in your career and manage a highly effective team, you can’t spend your time solving all the problems. It will stop you from focusing on the strategic part of your role, and it won’t allow your employees to develop, either.

I’m Already Good at Delegating…

As leaders many of us have mastered the art of delegation when it comes to tasks and projects. But it can be much harder to delegate problem solving, especially when a direct report comes to you with a problem and specifically asks you to solve it. It is especially hard when time is precious, deadlines loom, and complications have arisen.

In those instances, it is tempting to solve the problem yourself. But guess what my advice is? Don’t do it. Do this instead…

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4 Reasons Leaders Meditate

It was reported last week that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is now using meditation to help him make better decisions. He might not be at the top of your list of leadership role models, considering the amount of commentary about the room he reportedly uses for meditating at work as well as the ongoing reports of problematic behavior and practices at his company.

But his example is the latest in a growing list of business leaders who are looking to meditation to improve their effectiveness — a list which includes execs at Salesforce, Medtronic, and Google. 

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What’s the Big Deal About Meditation?

Over 1000 studies on meditation have shown its positive physical and mental effects and its profound impact on attitude and behavior. Countless articles, blog posts, and books extoll the virtues of what up to 20 minutes of meditation per day can do for us. Will meditation calm frazzled nerves, keep us cool and composed when the going gets tough, give us sharper concentration, make us better listeners, and possibly improve our health and overall well-being? In a word, yes.

meditation and leadership

So Why Don’t We Do It? 

Here are four reasons.

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Managing a High Performer Who Has Some Bad Habits

Have you ever managed, or are you now managing, a stellar performer who has a couple of bad habits?

Giving feedback to high performers

Here’s how one leader described one of her direct reports to me in a conversation this week: “In terms of his knowledge base and the execution of his work, he’s a 10, but he’s been getting on the nerves of a couple of important peers, and it’s becoming a problem. If he does this again, he could blow apart the project our team is about to deliver on.”

This leader, a VP whom I’ll call Tanya, had just found out her high-performing direct report, Kai, a senior director, had recently irked an important peer — a peer who was integral to the execution of their current project. This information came in addition to two complaints about him she got from two of her own other direct reports within the past month.

If you’ve ever faced this kind of situation with someone you manage, or if you are right now, then the advice below is for you. 

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How to Delegate the Right Work to the Right People

In my previous post I talked about 9 things that stop managers from delegating and also discussed the negative effects of holding onto work that should be delegated. In this post I give managers a set of tools so you can successfully let go of control and delegate in a way that works for you.

delegating skills for managers

Full disclosure: There is an up-front time investment. If you want to delegate and you want to do it well, set aside an hour or possibly two to use these tools. Given the time challenges most of us have, it might feel impossible to set aside time to figure out how to delegate. But when you learn to delegate and delegate well, you’ll be freeing up a lot more time in your schedule.

1. Inventory Your Activities

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9 Things That Stop Managers from Delegating

As leaders and managers, we know we need to be delegating work, but it’s not always easy to let go.

delegating at work

It seems it’s merely a question of deciding what needs to be passed on and then handing the work off. But a lot of managers and leaders have difficulty knowing exactly what to give away and to whom to give it. Investing the time to mentor others to achieve the desired results can also be a challenge.

But the truth is, leaders cannot move ahead and succeed without delegating, and delegating well.

Do Any of These Apply to You?

Here are nine reasons managers don’t delegate, or don’t delegate as much as they could and should:

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2 Simple Rules for Constructive Feedback

“I’d like to give you some constructive feedback.”

Constructive feedback tips for managers

Yikes. You know what? That sentence does not make me feel good. It makes me brace for what I’m about to hear. Like many people, it sends my brain into what neuroscientist David Rock calls a threat response.

This reaction is very common among us humans… and that includes the people you manage. Most people are not eager to hear so-called constructive feedback from their bosses. “Constructive,” a word that was once intended to connote the more positive aspects of feedback, is now a synonym for just plain “critical” in many people’s minds.

If you want your feedback to fall on open ears and have the positive impact on your employees’ performance that you’re looking for, there are two simple rules:

Rule #1: Don’t use the word constructive.

Rule #2: Don’t use the word feedback.

That’s right — don’t even utter the word feedback to your direct reports. You can think it to yourself silently if you’d like, and you can read it in this blog post, but just don’t say it out loud.

What to Do Instead

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Was That a Suggestion in the Form of a Question?

“Have you thought about doing it this way?” we might say to one of the people we manage. But what we really mean is: “I think you should do it this way.”

The “veiled suggestion.” We’ve all been guilty of it as leaders at some point in our careers — telling a direct report how to do something indirectly by posing it as a question.

No harm if this happens once in a while — but if posing suggestions in the guise of questions is an ongoing behavior a leader engages in with direct reports, something needs to change. Veiled suggestions do not get the best results from direct reports, and can contribute to performance problems.

Here’s an Example

Let’s say you’re a VP managing a team of directors, and a couple of them are new to their roles. And let’s say you’ve got your job nailed. You know what needs to be done. In fact, you could do the work of some of your newer directs in half the time that they could. You’re practicing patience as they grow in their roles, holding back the urge to simply tell people what to do.

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What if 360s Weren’t Anonymous?

One of the main purposes of the 360 for leaders is to improve performance and leadership skills. Many companies use this third-party feedback mechanism for getting what’s considered a robust picture of their managers and leaders. But this tool can’t actually fulfill this mission because it lacks the specificity necessary to make feedback actionable.

360 feedback and leadership assessment

When the reporting individual must remain nameless and when specific situations can’t be completely revealed because of the anonymity issue, the outcome is that the receiver spends wasted time trying to figure out what behavior to change with whom.

While useful information may be collected, the interpretation of what the feedback means and therefore what behavior, specifically, the manager or leader can change becomes difficult to discern.

What Ever Happened to Having Real Conversations?

Fear of confrontation, retribution, and a general lack of safety — that’s what.

What if we started on the road to doing things differently?

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Are You Being Defensive Without Realizing It?

None of us wants to think of ourselves as defensive, or believe that we are acting defensively, but the truth is sometimes we are. The trick is to manage ourselves and make sure sometimes doesn’t become often. And if you’re a leader of any kind and you plan to move up, then you cannot afford to be defensive — or be perceived as being defensive — ever.

Leaders cannot afford to be defensive

Leaders Who are Defensive Risk Not Moving Up

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