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Are you still playing the game?

If you're a leader/manager, your role is not to be the best player on the field, your role is to coach the best players on the field, yet many managers, particularly new ones, still attempt to play in the game and be the MVP. I know I've made that mistake, and I'm guessing you might have too.

Consider this conversation:

The seller enters the manager's office and says, "Got a minute?" (Got a minute meetings never last a minute.) The seller explains an issue, problem or challenge they are facing. With almost movie-making precision, the manager puts on the cape, puffs out the chest, solves the problem for the seller and saves the day. You're the hero!

Lesson learned by the seller: The manager has the answers. I don't need to think or solve problems.

The problem for the manager: Constant stream of got-a-minute meetings as sellers are conditioned to realize the manager is the hero and has all the answers.

To be respected and liked by our teams, we must demonstrate our value, which we perceive as having all the answers and saving the day for our team. Subconsciously we tell ourselves that if they come to us, they must need us and that feels good. It's laudable and understandable.

But dead wrong.

Martin G. Moore writing in Harvard Business Review, says:

"Your job isn't to get on the field and play the game, it's to observe the game, devise a winning strategy and then give your team the guidance, direction and motivation they need to play at their peak. When you do your team's work for them, rather than guiding them and allowing them to grow, no one wins."

Stop answering the questions. Start asking them. When someone comes to you with an issue, you'll often know the answer, and it can be very tempting just to save time, answer the question, solve the problem and be the hero. Martin suggests that a skilled leader will instead ask searching questions. In our RAB Leadership MasterClass (next class starts October 19th), we talk about the role of a leader being one of leading teams on a path of self-discovery rather than solving problems.

The next time a seller asks for a got-a-minute meeting, instead of solving the problem, consider asking several questions before answering. Questions like:

What do you think is the real issue?

What approaches have you thought about?

What other options have you considered?

What does a successful outcome look like?

Do you have the tools/resources to make that happen?

Who else could you ask for a unique perspective on this?

Have you ever seen this situation before? If so, what did you do?

What do you think should be the next step?

The key is to ask enough questions to get the seller to solve the problem on their own. This does take more time at the moment than simply giving them the answer, but over the long term, asking rather than answering has two primary benefits:

You're teaching your sellers problem-solving skills so that they can do this in the future without a got-a-minute meeting.

You're saving yourself time by not having to be involved in every single issue. Martin concludes his article with the following:

If you have the ambition to grow, develop and progress in your career, your goal shouldn't be to make yourself indispensable to your team, it should be to make yourself redundant. Build a team that can function without you, and then go to the next level and build another one. This is what will ultimately set you apart as a leader, not just a doer.

To inspire, engage, educate, equip and empower people so that they believe in themselves, have confidence in their abilities and achieve even greater success. Feels good, doesn't it?

Jeff Schmidt is the SVP of Professional Development. You can reach him at Jeff.Schmidt@rab.com. You can all so connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, SVP of Professional Development, RAB