The last time I stopped by our SFS Instructor’s Blog I talked about why you should quit being the Chief Problem Solver for your employees. In fact, as I look back over my blog posts here, I am struck by how many are focused on people!
You see, at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what business you are in. Simply put, if you own or manage a company, you are in the people business. It really doesn’t matter whether you clean carpet, dry structures, install running tracks, distribute chemicals, sell software, or paint bridges. All this stuff is just the products and services you sell. Your primary business is still (and always will be) people.
After all, when you stop to think about it, we don’t really sell our services to companies. We sell them to people. We don’t have employees who work for us. We have people who work with us, (And families who depend on us.) And remember that we don’t have investors who have financially bought into our companies. Instead, we have people who have bought into our dreams.
So once you understand that you are really in the people business, then you can get to work creating an environment in your company that “enables each person to assume responsibility for his or her own performance,” like James Belasco and Ralph Stayer wrote about in the best-selling Flight of the Buffalo. Creating this environment starts with putting a stop to being the Chief Problem Solver in your business.
Here are some questions to help determine you are acting as the Chief Problem Solver and if so, how to get yourself out of this dead-end role:
- Ask yourself how often you find yourself solving a problem or making a decision for someone else in your organization. Look for telltale signs. How often are you interrupted, either in your office or on your mobile phone, by people needing questions answered or decisions made? I wonder how often Jack Welch got interrupted to help decide on the shape and size of GE light bulbs? I wonder how successful GE would have been if he had?
- Ask yourself “Why am I the one dealing with this problem or decision?” Does this decision really require input from YOU to make it? If so, how can you empower others and/or change your procedures to get you out of this vicious circle?
- Delegate the decisions that have to be made to the people who have a stake in their outcome. If you’ve done your executive-level job of hiring the right people to start with, and then developed them to their full potential, then you also need to have confidence that they’ll make good decisions.
- Follow up. Notice that in point #3 it says delegate the decisions, not abdicate the decisions. You’ll still need to follow up to make sure the decisions were made, or the problems were solved. Then be sure to congratulate your people on their good work.
A short while ago I was talking with a client and friend who had just returned from a two-week visit to Russia. He was expressing mixed emotions about the situation he found in his restoration business when he returned. He commented, “There were no big issues that I had to address. No long list of problems to solve. In fact, I felt a little uneasy because things had gone so well while I was away.”
My buddy went on to say that, on one hand, he felt a little disconcerted and even sad that his people no longer needed him. He also felt pretty good that he had done his job of developing the leadership talents in his people to the point where they could handle things on their own.
I just congratulated him on getting out of the “Chief Problem Solver” trap!