Sometimes, as a leader within an organization or team, you will have to give “The Answer”… the answer for how to fix something, do the process correctly, or the answer for how to do it right the next time! It’s been said millions of times… and I echo it myself… leaders build other leaders and the process begins by having a vision, maintaining expectations, upholding high standards, and protecting your time… all the while letting your people do their job and as much as possible making the process their own. However, there will be times when your people get stuck and simply don’t know what to do. Or worse, they make in-the-moment decisions with great professional intent and are later chastised and reprimanded into never making another decision again!
As an employee, I remember working in an Alternative School MANY years ago; it was its second year open, the staff was new, and we ran the roost as all corporate higher-ups were located at headquarters. A rule established by the higher-ups was if a student left the building, they were not allowed back in… and to make that point clear to them before making that decision. Of course, the day came when two teenagers decided to exit the building. My partner and I shared the rule beforehand… and about an hour later the two young men returned knocking on the door with “Big Gulps” asking to reenter the building. My partner and I maintain protocol, but also because we had no idea what was in the containers and did not want to endanger students or staff by allowing two potentially intoxicated students back into the building. Long story short… a week later our “BIG Boss” from headquarters came to pay my partner and I a visit and read us the riot act regarding our decision and the possible ramifications of the incident.
When we explained we were following rules provided to us and making decisions regarding safety… we followed our statements up with… “What would have had us do and would you like us to do next time? I still remember the silence that ensued and the puzzled look on our boss’s face. NO ANSWER and complete confusion. My partner and I were not our best professionally that day as we exploded in frustration for being beat down and provided no answer on how to do it better or THE NEW WAY.
As a leader, I’ve had the honor of working with well-intended employees that simply didn’t know what to do when their way stopped being effective. This is not the time to chastise, berate, or demand “Better work”. Remember, most employees want to do a great… or at least good… and when they’re tapped out of ideas, they need answers from YOU! So, how to do it?
Address the Issue
This is an important first step… be mindful to address the issue, not the person! As a leader, you care about everyone, but may not enjoy everyone and everyone may not enjoy you. When you let your feelings about the person get in the way of improving the issue it will negatively impact your leadership… and theirs!
What’s the issue, what was done well, what needs to be fine-tuned due to unforeseen issues. In the story I shared, it would have been great for our boss to meet and say “I understand we had an issue here with two students leaving the building. I know our policy is to not let them back in, however things have changed and we can be liable if something would have happed to them. You guys did great at explaining the rules to the gentlemen beforehand and working to ensure safety when they returned. We will not be able to continue this process moving forward and we have to come up with something moving forward that legally protects us, protects those that leave our care, and the students in the building. I’m thinking this_____________ and would like your input and thoughts because this has to happen fast as the situation could happen again in the next two minutes and we must be prepared.” Approached this way, it would have been hard for my partner and I to have an issue, and would have been more than happy to be a part of the solution!
Whatever the issue that’s causing you to become involved and provide a solution is massively important… Remember, what doesn’t get addressed gets repeated! WHY are the mistakes continuously happening? Perhaps, this is the way the person has always done it and they think they’re good at it! I’ve been there… praised for my work; then switched organizations to find out their standards were higher and I wasn’t as great as I thought. Perhaps, they don’t have the tools to be successful and the broken machine, poor WIFI, etc. are the cause. Or, maybe they simply don’t care and are doing the bare minimum to just get by. In any case… seek understanding of what the real problem is with the intent to help them fix it, sharing the vision, the expectations, and rules moving forward. “Fixing it” may come in various forms… making yourself available to meet or teach, organizing on-site trainings, shadowing opportunities, and/or proper tools available to make success achievable. Get creative to marry what you want them to know and improve in with what they need most, and the best way to give it… and it’s hard to lose!
The Evolving Question!
Here’s a powerful question to ask when you’re meeting with someone before providing your solution… “If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?”. It’s amazing what people say and what you would say to the numerous professional and personal mistakes you’ve made in the past! Sometimes, this question will provide the solution or possible pieces to the solution moving forward.
When I was in graduate school, I was tasked to complete a transcript. I had to tape myself meeting with a client during a therapy session, type what I said, their response, my response, and a suggest alternative response. Although I hated every minute of typing; it was the most life-impacting assignment of my life as it forced me to be more mindful of every word I uttered and to eventually lead with the better alternative response. What an amazing thing for your leadership and theirs!
After you’ve addressed the issue, sought understanding, asked the Evolving Question… and they have been unable to develop a workable solution; it’s your job to be solution ready with “The Answer”!
Perhaps you’ve had one in your back pocket the whole time or you brainstormed one during the meeting… the point is to provide the answer for what’s to happen next and from now on. Some will like your solution and some will not. The goal is to align your solution with the Vision and Expectations of the organization and team; ensuring your leadership, building your people, and enhancing customer satisfaction.
When you are unable to come up with a solution on the spot and time permits… be human enough to say you don’t have an answer right now, want more time to think, and provide a timeframe in which you will get back to them with an answer. You may use this time to think on your own, ask your leadership peers, a mentor, or research… whatever you do… come up with something, honor the timeframe you provided, and implement it; allowing it to evolve when necessary!
When you deliver the solution, take the shakiness out of your voice and say it with confidence, assertiveness, and be sure to own it! Too many times, leaders present the solution in a timid nature or in an apologetic manner. Share the new way, why it’s good for the organization, leaders, employees, and an expectation for everyone to be all in… doing their best and being their best!
Enjoy the journey of caring for your people, the organization, and developing leaders… it’s an amazing experience and sometimes YOU as a leader will get to put your leadership on display providing “The Answer”… and now you know how!
“As a leader, you care about everyone, but may not enjoy everyone and everyone may not enjoy you. When you let your feelings about the person get in the way of improving the issue it will negatively impact your leadership… and theirs!”
– Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
Enhance Leadership and Work/Life Harmony in your Organization, your Leaders, Employees, and Teams with Andre Young’s Speaking Engagements, Evolve & Lead Training Programs (on-site, online, or virtual), and1-on-1 Growth Sessions! www.youevolvingnow.com