One of the most common questions leaders ask is: “How do I help my team become better problem-solvers?” Pari (not her real name) recently told us how she felt the managers who reported to her relied too heavily on her to make decisions that they had the authority to decide. “I don’t want to be this important!” she joked.
Here are three questions you can ask that will solve the problem while teaching your reports to break down the issues into actionable items and empower them to feel confident making these decisions independently.
“What barriers are preventing you from solving the problem?”
By asking this, Pari doesn’t abandon the team member by just dumping the problem back in their laps with a “figure it out.” The question expresses interest and conveys confidence in the team member to analyze the situation while building critical thinking skills. Once the barriers are named, they become more manageable to address.
“What options do you see?”
This question sparks creativity without argument or debate. As Pari acknowledges what the team member is describing, this question brings ideas to the discussion that she may not have imagined. Again, by staying curious, she’s building trust with the team member that their opinions and ideas matter without falling into the perils of groupthink at the same time.
“How might we overcome the barriers?”
With this question, Pari supports the team member in landing the plane. She can now offer a few solutions if helpful, linking them to the team member’s ideas to build further confidence that they can solve these problems independently. Where the situation is really sticky, she can further support them with questions like: “Where can we get some additional ideas,” “What would one step forward on this look like,” or “What do you need from me to move this forward?”
By resisting the temptation to help a team member by simply giving them her answer, Pari fosters greater engagement and more effective problem-solving in the leadership team by staying strategically curious. By making the team member’s solution important, Pari can still be important in other ways!
If you’d like to learn skills and strategies to help lead your team more effectively, we have coaches and consultants that can help! Contact us for a free consultation.