Stop Answering Employee Questions – How you’re training them to interrupt you, and how to train them to problem-solve instead

Do you ever get frustrated with constant interruptions from you team?

If you do, I’m going to share with you a little strategy that’s going to help you get more done and empower your team to make decisions more effectively.

How many times per day does somebody on your team come and interrupt you with the question, “Have you got a minute?”

Probably happens a lot more than you would like, right?

And let’s face it, it’s never one minute, is it?

It’s always maybe four, five minutes, plus however long it takes to get back on task once you remember what you were doing before you got interrupted, right?

So these little, have you got a minute’s, can end up chewing up an entire day and keeping you from getting at what’s most important for you to be focusing on in your business.

This is a strategy to eliminate or at least reduce the amount of time these interruptions are taking, and eventually eliminate the interruptions altogether.

So, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves, “Why do our team come and interrupt us?”  They know we’re busy.  We’ve probably asked them not to interrupt us, yet they continue to come to us looking for answers.

Well, the simply answer to it, is you’ve trained them.  You’ve trained them to come to you for answers.

And you might think,   “Well no, I haven’t, I’ve asked them not to interrupt me, I don’t want these interruptions.”

Here’s the litmus test:

If a team member comes to you, and says, “Hey, I’m having a challenge with this, what do you think?”

And if you give them an answer, that’s the training moment. 
You are training your team to continually inundate you for answers.

Here’s the strategy to shift it:

The next time a team member comes to you with a question, and they don’t have a solution or an answer, don’t give them one.

Send them away and say, “Look, take a few minutes, come back to me with three potential solutions that we can discuss.”

Why three solutions?  Well, it’s easy to come up with one on the spot, and it’s probably not going to be the best one.

If they get into a second solution, now they’re starting the thinking work going.

And when they get to that third idea, now they’ve had to actually use some creativity.

So, you’re getting their creativity and problem-solving wheels turning.

And the reason you don’t want to have your team member do that right there with you, is because you’ve got more important things to do. They can go away, do the thinking, and come back.

Now you’ve got three potential solutions to discuss, it’s going to be a faster conversation.

One of them is probably a good idea, you can say, “Hey, go with option B, let’s get it done.”

And off they go, you don’t have to do the thinking.

You’re training your team to think.

You’re training them to problem-solve, and you’re also training them that next time they come to you with a challenge, that’s okay, but bring solutions to the table, right?

So they’re doing that thinking work ahead of time, and that’s where the time that the interruption takes up, is going to be reduced.

Now, over time, what you’re going to find is that your team members probably have some really good ideas and really good solutions to the challenges that they’re facing.

And, over time, you’re going to get to the point where you can just say, “Yep, yeah, option B, option A, sounds great.”

And eventually you can say, “Hey, you’re doing a lot of really good problem solving in this particular area.  Next time something comes up, I want you to come up with your three ideas, but then I want you to execute on one that you think is the best.  I’ve got your back if anything goes wrong with it.”

So you’re training them now to build their own confidence, their decision making ability, and eliminating the interruptions to you.

That’s the strategy: don’t give your team the answers, give them a request for solutions that they can bring to you, that you can discuss to help them get involved in the thinking and problem solving process.

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Schedule a Discovery Call with me

Subscribe to the Take Flight podcast for new episodes every week 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *