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Stop Solving Their Problems!

Posted on November 06, 2006

By  Brian Kathenes

Want to develop your direct reports, and even your supervisors? 1: Stop answering their questions. 2: Stop solving their problems.

Sound like a crazy idea? Sure it does--but the concept will help your people begin the process of independent thinking. When a member of your team comes to you with a problem, first ask them how they would solve it. When someone asks you to make a decision, ask them what they would decide if you were not there. Then, discuss their answer and use it as a learning opportunity.

Too many times, we managers instantly answer questions, offer solutions, and give specific direction. Although our experience and knowledge have helped us lead our organization, using it that way often does not help us to develop our staffs as effectively as possible, garner their respect and trust, or make our own jobs more fulfilling over time.

Remember, you can’t move up in the organization until there is someone who can fill your spot when you move up. Develop your employees and you will create more opportunity for your own career.


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Matty Matarazzo

I love your suggestions. I will try this with my two managers and let you know how it goes.

Helen Antholis

I totally agree! I've used this approach for years and have built high morale, high performing staff and team members. It gets people to think broadly, to share opinions, and to learn better ways (and more diverse ways) of solving problems and making decisions.

Brian Kathenes

Hi Matty,

I know Four Sisters Winery -- Belvidere NJ right? Great place. I've been there. Your meetings and events are well run.

I also own your book, as I recall you do a great deal of consulting in the agricultural field.

Later in the week I'll post an article related to teambuilding. "Steal it" and pass it along to your clients. Best, Brian Kathenes

Brian Kathenes

Hi Helen,

Thanks for expanding on the topic. I like how you've applied this technique to buiding your team.

Keep up the great work.

Best, Brian Kathenes

Brian Kathenes

OK last one today ---

I got a call from an old friend -- and I do mean old -- who asked me what the heck I had sticking out of my neck in my head shot.

He suggested they were Frankestien bolts. Although I may look like Frankenstein, the 'bolts' are actually headphones. The picture is from my weekly radio show. The MIMegasite folks cropped the microphone and the studio background -- and left the "neck bolts."

Take that, my 'old' friend


Dirk Swaneveld

thankyou for your thoughts and ideas on team work.

Brian Kathenes

Hi Dirk,

You've done a great job of building your team of dedicated teachers and professional educators.

Keep up the great work in the Belvidere School system.

Brian Kathenes

Peter LoCascio

I found that saying "I don't know, what do you think?" always seemed to move a problem finder to a problem solver.

Brian Kathenes

Hi Peter,

That is a GREAT line!

Wonderful advice for managers who wish to build effective teams and strong leaders.

Thanks for sharing it wih us.

Brian Kathenes
(908) 459-5979

Brian Kathenes

Just ran across this site from a while back. The calendar changes, but the concepts of team building do not.

Brian Kathenes

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