Jim told me he was tired of always having to have all the answers for his leaders. He just wanted them to step up to the plate and make decisions on their own.

While we were sitting there talking a leader, Mary, came in and told him about a problem her team was having with another team. Jim shook his head and said, “okay, deal with it.” Then about 15 minutes later as someone passed by his office he said, “just a minute Anne”. He then ran outside, had a conversation and walked back in the office. He told me the person who had just gone by was the other leader Mary needed to work with on the problem so he thought he would just quickly chat with him and get it ironed out.

As you read the above you can probably see why Jim’s team came to him for all the answers. Jim was great at stepping in and solving problems but he wasn’t great at teaching his team how he thinks so they can solve the problems on their own. On top of that he is an impatient person so if he sees an opportunity to fix something he just did it rather than wait for the leader to do it.

I told Jim, “there are unintended consequences from your desire to take action and you are seeing it in a team that waits for you to make the decisions.”

Here are the steps I gave Jim to reverse the situation:

1. Share the thinking.

When your team comes in with a problem help them think through the problem rather than just about the problem. Show them not only what you would do but WHY you would do it.

2. Define the optimal solution.

Once you have talked through the problem and they have defined solutions, find out which one they will pursue and why. If you disagree, help them think through the consequences of what could go wrong with that plan. They may have insight you don’t.

3. Define the waiting period.

Define how they will circle back to you and when about the problem. For Jim, this meant having clear defined lines of what he would do if he hadn’t heard back from them. He was upfront about how antsy he would get and that he needed a clear defined date/time they would get back to him so he wouldn’t take action. This way he could negotiate the timeline if he thought they were taking too long.

4. Debrief the results.

Jim had them come back and share the results-what happened that they expected and what happened that they didn’t expect. This then allowed him another coaching session with that person.


No matter what level you are in your organization start trying to teach your thinking, not just the doing. Be open about deadlines and consequences so people realize the time frames they need to work within.

Get a no-cost strategic leadership report at www.impressionmanagement.com from Anne Warfield, CEO, Impression Management Professionals, Minneapolis, MN
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