When we are working with People Leaders on their conversations with staff, we discuss various aspects of those conversations including skills, structure and purpose. However, the underlying principles we hold about the Performer and about our role have the greatest impact on how effective those conversations are and their impact on the individual Performer.
Welcome to BUILD Conversations™ Principle No.4 – Performers will usually find their own solutions
Who holds the answers?
Mike is a manager of a team in a busy environment. His team are dealing directly with customers every day and they operate with very specific performance indicators which are reviewed daily, weekly, and monthly. Mike spent so long looking at these indicators that he managed his people like an engineer looking at a production line – as soon as Mike saw an issue with someone’s performance he jumped in to “fix” them.
Mike had all the solutions and was keen to Tell them what to do to get back on track. Mike felt it was his job to give that Performer a solution quickly to get back on track.
Mike’s behaviour in his conversations had a positive intent – get the solution implemented quickly. However, it had unintended consequences. The impact of this reactionary approach was that he repeated the same conversations with his Performers. Also, he was frustrated by the fact that when he gave a solution, Performers didn’t always follow through in implementing it or they only implemented it for a short time. It lowered the Performer’s level of commitment to implementing the solution that Mike was prescribing. And he created a dependency on him to provide solutions – thus limiting the Performer’s confidence and ability to identify solutions.
Challenging the belief
I challenged the belief which Mike had developed that said he had to provide the solutions. Firstly, the evidence was that his providing the solutions was clearly not having the desired impact – otherwise, he wouldn’t have to repeat the same conversations!
Secondly, I challenged him to consider what his Performers were learning from Mike by him always prescribing solutions. He recognised that this created a dependency on him to provide solutions – thus limiting the Performer’s confidence and ability to identify solutions, It also lowered the Performer’s level of commitment to implementing the solution that Mike was prescribing.
Ask instead of Tell
Mike worked on how this Principle, Performers will usually find their own solutions, could be demonstrated in his conversations. This led to him practicing and implementing two specific new behaviours –
- At the start of their meeting, Mike communicated his intention and expectation for the conversation. His intention was to help the Performer develop if some development was identified and he believed the Performer would be best placed to identify potential solutions and actions where any were needed.
- When a development area was identified, Mike changed from Telling his well-intentioned solutions!! Instead, he asked questions that drew out the Performer’s ideas. For every performance and development challenge, he encouraged the Performer to identify a bank of possibilities.
More engaged and more committed
Over the following months the Mike tried out and developed these 2 aspects of his conversations and he noticed a change – his team became more engaged in the conversation and they committed to actions.
Making this a habit
Mike brought this approach into other aspects of his engagements with his team. Previously, when a Performer came with a problem he was in the habit of responding by giving the quick answer. He now asked questions that got the Performer to think through the problem and possibilities to resolve it.
challenged the mindset
To really embrace this Principle, Mike challenged the mindset of wanting the quick fix. By adopting this new approach, he invested time in the person to help them to develop their capability and confidence to resolve challenges.
Offer solutions as suggestions
This Principle states that Performers will usually find their own solutions. There will be times when the Leader has access to information that the Performer is not yet aware of and which will help them. In these cases, it is obviously appropriate to share these solutions. However, even with those, I suggest that the Leader offers their suggestion as another option to consider. If the Performer can see the merit of the suggested solution then follow up with a question – how would you apply that solution/idea to make it work for you? This will allow the Performer to personalise and internalise the Leader’s suggestion and make it their own.
Are you drawn towards giving all the solutions? Consider how you currently bring BUILD Conversations™ Principle No.4 – Performers will usually find their own solutions into your conversations.
take the heat off yourself
The next time you want to prescribe the solution, pause, and ask the Performer a question that will tap into their own bank of possibilities. Take the heat off yourself – you do not need to have all the answers.
As described in Principle 3, if you accept that people make their own choices, then principle 4 asks you to consider how to work with the Performer to find possible solutions to choose from that will help them towards their goal.
Keep on building