As a leader, you probably get asked a lot of questions right?
How do I do this? What does this mean? The questions never seem to end. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’ve answered it once or a hundred times. The same ones pop over and over again.
So pop quiz hot shot. What do you do?
Do you give them the answer? It’s the fastest outcome. After all, they get what they want, and you can get back to work. Or do you leave it for them to figure it out? This way, they might learn something and not ask you for the answer again.
So which way is better? Let’s explore both options.
Why Providing the Answer is Better
There’s nothing wrong with providing the answer to your direct reports. It just depends on the type of question they’re asking. Do they not know because they’re attempting something out of their skillset? Maybe they’re curious about a certain aspect and need more context before approaching a situation. Whatever it may be, some guidance and expertise can go a long way in the development of your direct report.
The answer can help give them a platform to start from. They might mimic your approach for a period of time and then begin to make it their own. It can help give them the boost they need to get started and the confidence that they’re on the right track.
Why Letting Your People Figure it Out is Better
The sink or swim approach can also be worthwhile exploring. However, this takes more than just telling your direct report to figure it out. You need to create a safe environment for your people so they can get creative. They should feel like they can test and learn approaches. If they get it wrong, the last thing you want to do is berate them. Instead, the question you want to ask is what they learned.
It takes courage as a leader to leave it up to your people to figure it out. Your boss might not like that. They might expect perfection at all times because they don’t want their superiors to see any cracks in the ship. But it’s important to get the next generation of leaders ready, and leaving it to them to figure it out is one of the best ways you can do this. Prepare yourself for some potential heat from above. Just don’t let it reach your direct report, or they might not want to take this approach again.
Why You Need to Tailor Your Leadership
You can’t see every situation as a black and white issue. It’s not a toss of the coin whether to provide the answer or let your people figure it out. If these are the only tools in your toolbox, then it’s up to you to figure out which is the best approach in the situation your people are facing.
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