Does your team need your direction all the time, or do you adopt a non directive approach?
Have you ever noticed how those people who constantly look to you to solve the slightest problem or to make the easiest of decisions, seem to manage fine when you are away for a day or two, or even a few hours?
Having to deal with every question or every problem your team face can be draining for you and does little to develop your team.
If you’ve always been quick to resolve problems for them it’s all too easy for this to become the accepted norm. But doing this denies team members of the opportunity to think for themselves. By turning things around and getting them to come up with their own solutions leads to an increased awareness of what they are doing and how they are doing it, better buy in and commitment to the solution, increases their confidence and is good for their development.
Of course this approach may not be possible or appropriate in every situation. So when is a more direct response needed opposed to asking them to solve their own problem or question?
A more directive approach may be more appropriate when:
- It calls for speed
- It’s a high risk situation
- When you need to retain full control
- There’s no debate as it’s a policy or legal decision has already been made
- When the person isn’t yet capable or had sufficient experience, and asking them may make them feel vulnerable
The downside of being very directive
- Limits people’s potential
- Restricts innovation and fresh approaches
- Gives no ownership or responsibility
- Provides no opportunity for development and can even make people ‘lazy’ if you always solve their questions
- It assumes you are right!
A non directive approach has the following benefits
- Develops people assuming they have the basic experience or knowledge to build on
- Gives them ownership
- Helps with problem solving as it can generate more than one solution
- Allows for continuous improvement as they might find a better way of approaching the situation
- Gives a sense of achievement
- Builds confidence when team members come up with their own solutions
- Takes the pressure off you in the long term as people get used to coming up with their own solutions
- Means you don’t always need to know the answer!
So the following situations might lend themselves to a non directive approach
- There is reduced risk, or at least an opportunity to monitor or correct things before putting anything at risk
- The team member has the appropriate skills, experience or knowledge to work things out for themselves (even if they don’t have the willingness to do so)
- When there’s a degree of flexibility in the way something can be approached (even if the end result is not negotiable, such as legal requirements or demanding targets)
- It’s not time critical and provides some time for the team member to think or talk it through
What if the customer is waiting?
Most often speed is given as a reason not to use a non directive approach. “We can’t keep the customer waiting while I coach them. I’ll have to spell out what they should do.” Or you end up taking over completely and dealing with it yourself.
In this instance use a directive approach initially, then go back afterwards to review with the team member what you told them to do (or how you handled it), and why, and what they could do in similar circumstances to resolve the issue for themselves.
As a line manager team members will still need direction and guidance from you, but to develop them, get their buy in and improve productivity put some of the onus on them to come up with their own ideas and solutions as often as possible. It won’t happen over night, but if you always encourage them to come up with their own answers they’ll soon get used to it.
If you only do one thing – the next time someone comes and asks for you for guidance or has a question turn it back on them and ask “what do you think?”
Related articles: Using the GROW model
Related video: The power of Questions