How to Stop Being an Answer-Dispenser and Improve Productivity

People & Culture

As a business leader, the question of how to improve productivity is something that’s probably often on your mind. There’s a simple yet powerful way that you can free up more time for yourself to focus on the more strategic elements of your business and empower your team to get more done. Let me set the scene.

Imagine that Bob walks into your office for the thirteenth time today with yet another problem. Being the supportive business owner that you are, you listen to his problem and since you know the answer, you go ahead and solve it for him. After all, you’re the expert, and if you remove that roadblock, Bob can keep moving forward. 

Conventional wisdom is that you’ve done the right thing. You’ve solved their problem so Bob can go back to his desk and continue working. That’s the right thing to do, right? 

Wrong. If you’re aiming to become a leader of a team that is self-sufficient and accountable, you must stop solving their problems for them.

Why Solving Your Team’s Problems Is a Bad Idea

When I said above that Bob came into your office for the thirteenth time, it wasn’t a stretch. When you consistently solve people’s problems for them, they know that they can come to you and you will take the monkeys off their backs and shoulder them yourself. They don’t have to think. They don’t have to learn. And they don’t have to make decisions.

When you do this, you’re diminishing them. These people will never grow to achieve their potential. And sadly, you will never live the entrepreneurial dream of having freedom and time to focus on your zone of genius. Because you’ll be too busy solving the problems your people are coming to you with.

Sound familiar? We’ve all made this mistake. Here’s how to avoid this.

Improve Productivity by Empowering Your Team to Solve Problems

The right thing to do is to resist the urge to solve your people’s problems for them. This doesn’t mean that you should hide under your desk, lock your door, or directly refuse to help your people when they come to you! Instead, you can get them in the habit of thinking through the problem to come to their own conclusions.

Let’s say Bob comes into your office seeking help. The first step is to have him explain the problem and have him walk through how he thinks he should solve it. If he really doesn’t know how, it’s a training situation. You can teach him how to solve the problem. 

The key, however, is not just telling him WHAT to do, but also WHY you would do that. Explaining your approach will help your people understand the steps and logic you used, and they will hopefully be able to apply this to the next problem they encounter. 

Once you’ve trained someone on how to think through a problem, they should know how to tackle future problems. Your job now switches from training them to being a coach. Ask them questions that reinforce their thought process so they can start building confidence in their problem-solving abilities. 

By asking them coaching-type questions about what the goal is, how they would address a particular issue, and other open questions, you can start ensuring their thinking is aligned with what is needed to achieve the desired result. And, importantly, you can be confident they will solve problems in a way that you agree with.


How Adopting a Coaching Mentality Can Improve Productivity

Ideally, after you put this work into training your team how to think through and solve problems, the interaction with Bob will look something like this:

Bob will come into your office with what Dan Martell calls a 1-3-1 framework: one problem, three potential solutions, and the one solution that he recommends.

When your people do this, it means they’ve already thought through a problem before coming to you. Then all you need to do is listen and confirm whether their proposed solutions make sense. Once Bob has done this a few times, you can trust those problems are being solved as they go.

This is the magic turning point after which you start to get true freedom and the peace of mind of knowing you have accountable team members around you. Now, the little issues get dealt with by your team instead of wasting your valuable time. This means you will have time to focus on other elements that drive your business forward and that your team will spend more time getting things done.

Now, if you have a team member who is not getting better at solving problems after training and coaching, you might have a case of the wrong person in the wrong seat or on the wrong bus.

Generally, the biggest challenge to overcome is not your people. It’s your mindset. 

You see, it is incredibly rewarding to solve problems. As a leader, it feels really good being the superhero who can swoop in and rescue the team with your expertise. But in doing that you are not only failing to empower them, but you are also disempowering them. You are digging your own grave by making them dependent on you (say goodbye to worry-free vacations and free time to devote to other aspects of the business)!

Intentionally using this process of walking your people through the problems they bring to you will gradually build your comfort and confidence so that you can learn to let go of the reigns. Give it a try and see how it transforms your business. Need some help applying this to your business? Contact us.

Mike Knapp


Mike has been helping businesses achieve their goals for more than 20 years. He believes there is a better way for business owners and leaders to build their businesses and achieve their big goals. As a Gravitas Impact Premium coach, he leverages the 7 Attributes of Agile Growth™ to simplify the art of strategy and discipline of execution.

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