Underperformance: Why Bosses are Solving the Wrong Problems | Terri Sinclair

We’ve all heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder.” How do you actually do this? Many leaders report they are busy 80% of their day solving their direct reports’ problems. Most leaders remark at how small the issues seem to them. In my 25+ years experience training and coaching leaders in all types of industries, the only way a leader can truly work smarter is to develop the talents of his direct reports.

As a leader, what problems are you tasked with solving?

  • Personality or other types of co-worker conflicts
  • Lack of interpersonal or emotional intelligence skills
  • No initiative to use resources for problem solving
  • Routine tasks that need rework
  • Other?

If you thought, “yes” to any (or all) of the the above, then you’re not alone. The leaders that I coach and train are feeling the same way. This is why I’ve devoted so much time to helping bosses solve the right problems. The answer lies in some type of coaching the majority of the time.

First, it will be helpful to differentiate two types of organizational coaching:

  • Coaching for performance
  • Coaching for development

While these two types can overlap, it’s important to note that coaching for performance is mainly about the addressing a specific problem that is often measured in an employees’ performance plan. While coaching for development turns the focus from the issue to the person dealing with the issue. Think: give a man a fish = coaching for performance and teach a man to fish = coaching for development.

For example, a boss who solves a personality conflict with 2 co-workers, will need to solve that problem again unless she can coach 1 or both of the co-workers to understand what’s prompting the conflict, and how it can be prevented.

Over decades of designing and delivering leadership training to address these issues, the realization of 3 main causes for underperformance have emerged. They are:

  • Rules
  • Tools
  • Choices

When a boss can understand the cause(s) of underperformance, he is able to then coach for development. When bosses are getting to the source of an issue, they are helping to develop their direct reports.

In order to be a boss that solves the right problems, one must overcome 3 obstacles:

  • Awareness of default behavior
  • Acceptance of alternative behavior options
  • Accountability to adopt the coaching habit

To understand your default behavior, can you answer these questions with accuracy?

  • On average, how many times a day do you get tasked from a direct report to solve a crisis?
  • What is your 1st response to your direct reports after they explain the problem?
  • Which direct reports bring you possible solutions along with the problem?
  • Which direct reports solve 80% or more problems on their own without coming to you?
  • 4b: How do they do it?

Once you see that the default isn’t giving you the result you want, you’re ready to look at options.

Some behavior alternatives that leaders can use in building a coaching habit:

Pause
How could you make it a habit to avoid answering a question too quickly? Instead of solving, consider these responses. “I’m in the middle of .… I’ll follow up with you in 10 minutes. In the meantime, jot down your top 2 or 3 ideas for solving.”
Delegate
Who on your team can be a mentor? What resources are underused? Instead of solving, how can you point your direct reports toward taking initiative?
Use the Coaching Habit questions
In the book by Michael Bungay Stanier, he suggests that these 7 questions are all a leader needs. With some practice and active listening, these have proven success.

  • What’s on your mind?
  • And what else?
  • What is the issue for you right now?
  • What do you want?
  • How can I help?
  • If you say yes to this, what will you have to say no to?
  • What’s your main take-away from our conversation?

Now, what will it take for you to be successful in changing your default behavior?

What support will you need?

Connect with me for more. https://www.linkedin.com/in/coachterrisinclair/

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