I was on a confidential call recently with an Ops VP who was applying for a slot in CSuite Accelerator, and he told me that he’d recently had a tough conversation with his boss. The boss said it was the senior team’s shared view that he spent way too much time hand-holding his employees instead of developing them into self-sufficient, results-focused leaders, and that that could turn out career-limiting for him.
My Ops VP acknowledged that he might be rolling up his own sleeves a bit too frequently, but that was only because his employees came to him for help so frequently. He couldn’t, in good conscience just ignore them, could he?
Anyway, keeping open lines of communication with your directs is a good thing, isn’t it?
A Binary Choice?
Let’s get underneath this …
When a direct report asks for help, many well-intentioned leaders I know feel trapped in what they see as a binary choice.
One alternative is to tell the direct report what they would do in the circumstances. The other is to shrug it off and avoid the conversation so that they decide for themselves.
Both are born in good intentions, but both also carry high costs to them and to you.
If you tell them what to do, the intention is to help mentor them. The cost to them is it infantilizes them. The cost to you is that you are, in effect, doing their work … making their decisions.
On the other hand, if you shrug it off and avoid the conversation so that they decide for themselves. Again, good intentions – you want to empower them. You want to help them get skin in the game. But, they wouldn’t have come to you in the first place if they didn’t need some help. Moreover, this is going to make them second-guess communicating up to you, in general, and you don’t want that to happen.
The 4 Simple Steps:
So what are you supposed to do?
There’s a third approach to get your employees results-driven without handholding and it’s to follow a simple 4-step formula, we’re going to call by the mnemonic, O A P D.
O – Objectives
A – Alternatives
P – Pros & Cons
D – Decision.
1. Objectives. When your employee comes for your help ask, “What are your objectives for this stakeholder, for this project, for this meeting?” “What kinds of outcomes are you looking for?” This is the problem definition stage.
2. Alternatives. Then once they can articulate the Objectives, ask, “What are your Alternatives to achieve those Objectives?” Get a few on the table. Elicit them from your direct report. You don’t have to offer them advice here. Get it from them.
3. Pros & Cons. Once they’ve identified a couple of alternatives, have them tell you the Pros and Cons for each. Go through each of them. This adds rigor to the process, this helps them scenario plan, this helps them problem solve.
4. Decision. And, finally, ask for a Decision. Ask them for a commitment. “What are you going to do now? By when?” Let them know that you’re looking forward to hearing about it at your next one-on-one.
What to Expect When You Follow the Steps:
O A P D.
If you follow these simple 4 steps consistently, you will:
1. Develop a confident, results-driven employee;
2. Devote the saved time to being more strategic in your own work; and
3. Be seen as C-Suite-ready.
So what I want to know is, in light of what we discussed today, what are you going to do to stop hand-holding your employee and instead, help him or her drive to results. Leave me a comment.
I hope you’ve found this useful. If you like it, share it with your colleagues or someone else you believe might benefit.
If you want to learn more, take our “C-Suite Roadblock Audit,” which will help you identify mistakes you might be making right now that could be hurting your C-Suite prospects. You can also download our “Team Optimizer Checklist” to help get your direct reports aligned.
Alternatively, if you’d like to have a brief complimentary call with me feel free to reach out and get on my calendar.