My Early Learning – The Problem Solving Manager

It’s easy to do. It was the beginning of my leadership career and I wanted to be recognised as a manager with an open door policy who was always accessible and was well thought of because I was helpful and available for advice. Sounds good. A great aspiration. Here’s the thing. It was my first lesson as a rookie manager and a trap that I fell into all too easily. In hindsight, it was to deliver me one of the best learnings of my leadership career.

The trap that I fell into was becoming a Problem Solving Manager. I felt I had a wealth of knowledge and was keen to share it. When I was asked a question, I simply answered it as I was eager to provide direction and guidance. Over time the questions increased, I struggled to stay focused on task with constant distractions, the hours of work increased and I was feeling somewhat out of control. Furthermore, it seemed decisions couldn’t be made without me creating or driving them and meeting business deadlines became more challenging. The toll was immense – my personal brand took a substantial hit.

So what I learnt early in my leadership career is to be careful not to become a Problem Solving Manager. Your team and the individuals in it will benefit immensely from thinking for themselves and developing pathways in their brains to problem solve. It will help them to innovate, create and will assist in creating a culture of personal accountability.
The solution is relatively simple. Answer a question with a question.

A few questions that have been very effective for me:-
What options do you have?
What other options do you have?
What have others done in that situation?
What have you done in similar situations?

If you want to develop a team who are self-aware, personally accountable and make a positive contribution to your business then beware the trap of being a Problem Solving Manager.

Chris Moffat
General Manager – Telstra Business Centre