One of the hardest things about being a manager or a team leader is trying to find ways to help your reports learn to help themselves. Of course, you're available to support them — to help to answer questions and resolve problems along the way. But good managers know that everyone will be better off the more independent, self-motivated and capable the team becomes. So, here are some tips for encouraging others to be more proactive.
1. Be direct
Part of your role as a leader is to offer honest and direct feedback. Of course, you shouldn't be a jerk about it. But, you shouldn't leave your employees wondering what you want from them, either. Be direct about what you expect. If someone isn't being as independent as you'd like them to be, discuss that with them in a nice way. Explain that you're always there to help, but that this is the kind of thing they are more than capable of working out on their own. Remind them that you hired them because of their capabilities and that you know they can handle it.
2. Don't be a micromanager
If you tend to micromanage, you'll have to relinquish some of your own authority and control if you'd really like others to take on more themselves. You can make the people that report to you a little nervous when you're too present as a manager. Pretty soon your reports are bringing all kinds of things to you for approval, in an effort to avoid surprising or upsetting you.
Instead, try backing off a little and ceding some control. Tell your reports that you're confident they can handle it and ask them to let you know if there is anything you can do to support them. It may take a little while for folks to adapt to the change. It's not easy dealing with a micromanager. So, give the transition a bit of time to take root.
3. Help your employees to develop their abilities
The next time a team member comes to you with a question, try seeing the situation as an opportunity. How can you use this as a way to help your employee develop their own abilities so that they can be more independent in the future?
Instead of just answering their question, ask them something in response: "That's a tough question. What do you think some potential solutions might be?" Talk with your employees to help them learn and grow professionally. They'll know more, and feel more capable and confident (and therefore more independent), the more you're able to do this.
4. Realize that your way isn't the right way
It can be difficult to see the part we play in our own problems sometimes. Too often managers complain about how their workers aren't proactive enough. Yet, these same managers can also be the ones who jump in to redirect their employees too quickly. If you want your team members to be more independent, you're going to have to get comfortable with people doing things differently than how you do them. You're way isn't the right way — it's just one way. Allowing your employees to do things the way they think is best is important if you want them to be more independent.
5. Understand that all this will make them happier, too
Being a manager isn't easy. You want your employees to be more independent, but it can also be hard to relinquish the control sometimes. It's important to remember why you're doing this. It's not just so that you're job will be easier and you'll be happier — it's for your employees, too. Autonomy is key when it comes to being happy at work. So, don't feel guilty when you leave them to solve problems themselves. Know that you're doing the right thing for everyone.
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