Q: People get annoyed when they know the boss has the answer but doesn’t give it to them. What is a good way to respond?
A: Of course they might get annoyed, you are forcing them to think. You are sending them on a leadership workout. Start by having a designated amount of time allotted for them to think on their own. First say “Great question,” or “Thanks for coming to me with this.” Then say “How would you handle this if you were the boss?” or “I’d like to hear how you see it from your perspective.” Lastly, set a time frame for when they will get back to you with input. Could be 10 mins, 10 hours or 10 days, that depends on the problem. You can prepare them ahead of time by telling them that you expect some thinking when they show up at your door.
Q: Can it be perceived as inauthentic if the leader knows the answer but doesn’t tell the team?
A:This is where the leader needs to assess how much and for how long an individual or team should be in bluework – the Collaborate Play. During the collaboration process we expand our thinking and look at all possible options. We share ideas, allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and respect the ideas of others. A leader could provide the answer but it would not give the other person the chance to look at a problem and come up with their own solution. Whether it’s THE solution that fits doesn’t matter. It’s the thinking that takes place that matters, that is the muscle we want to exercise and increase.
An added benefit of not providing the answer is Collaboration leads to Commitment. The people who are going to do the work are getting to decide how it’s done, or at least be a part of the conversation sharing their thoughts and ideas.
When there is time (even 10 minutes) don’t give the answer, instead say “I’m going to give you the opportunity to develop your leadership muscle, but that means sometimes I might ask you to go and grapple with a problem even when it might seem expedient for me to just tell you the answer.”