One of the biggest productivity-killers managers face every day is interruptions.
And one of the most frequent interruptions is … employees with questions.
A Cal/Irvine study estimated that managers get interrupted four times an hour by staff, mostly to answer questions.
It’s a common problem-solving scenario that plays out like this:
Employee has an issue and asks the boss for help.
Boss offers solution. Bingo!
Employee is back for more solutions.
Teaching people to solve their own problems is a managerial high art.
It not only puts an end to this tiring cycle of interruptions, it improves the quality of the people around you.
Here are four tactics to do just that:
1) Don’t Be So Smart
We sometimes work on autopilot, just handling whatever’s thrown at us. So when an employee comes in and asks a question, they get an answer.
So they start working on autopilot, too. Ask a question, get an answer. Easy-peasy.
This type of interaction delays people from gaining the experience and knowledge they’ll need to solve problems.
Instead of answer, hit them with this question: “What would you do in this situation?”
2) Help Them Distinguish
Some issues do need a manager’s immediate attention – for instance, a harassment or safety violation.
But more often, you don’t need to get involved – except to give them a pat on the back later on when they’ve been successful.
Help employees distinguish between what needs your attention right now and what doesn’t.
Have them ask, “Is this something that must be solved right now?” before they even come to you.
3) Redirect Them
Seasoned managers know tons of stuff, so take a bow. But do you know when it is a value to withhold information?
Managers should push employees in the right direction to answer their own questions on policies, product details and customer data.
If it’s available via a company resource, managers can point people in those directions: the Intranet, a handbook, a procedure guide, policy guideline, etc.
Employees will remember information they uncover on their own and put to use successfully.
4) Develop A Problem-Solving Culture
You can begin to build a culture of employee-created solutions by requiring staff to bring at least two potential solutions with them every time they bring a problem to you.
That will curb interruptions immediately as employees start identifying and implementing solutions without involving their managers.
That’s not to say managers never need to help employees find an answer and implement it.
Doing some problem-solving together will help build the confidence people need to resolve their own challenges down the road.