Teaching Employees To Solve Their Own Problems

The following is an excerpt from our article that was published by FastCompany.com on September. The full article can be found at: http://www.fastcompany.com/3051480/know-it-all/how-managers-can-teach-employees-to-solve-their-own-problems

Managers often find themselves trapped in the middle of situations that aren't theirs to solve. Arbitrating certain disputes robs your team members of developing their own conflict management skills.
One of your other jobs as a manager is to help your team grow, both individually and together. To do that, you need to help them resolve some of their own issues collaboratively. Here are five tips to help managers do just that.

1. Know When And How To Intervene
Different circumstances call for different responses. If one employee’s weak performance is preventing other employees from getting their jobs done, you most certainly have a role to play. Address the performance deficiencies of that team member.

But if the matter comes down to disagreement over strategy or tactics involving a certain project, that might be a time to step back and encourage your team members to sort it out. You can and should give guidance, but you don't always need to make a final call from on high.
2. Give Your Employees Room To Grow

Employees need the freedom and authority to solve problems that relate to their work. So give them the opportunity to learn conflict management techniques and develop problem-solving skills. In the midst of a dispute, your team members can get frustrated and aren't always likely to see it as a teaching moment. That's where you come in.

3. Recognize When Egos And Emotions Get In The Way
Define the problem and the impact it’s having in the workplace—tempers and egos aside. That won't calm everyone down automatically, of course, but it will help your team members focus on the issue itself and not how they feel about it. Remember that the dispute could involve someone's passion project. If emotions flare, help your employees control them so they don’t interfere with the resolution.
4. Facilitate, Don't Dictate

As a manager who takes this approach, you’ll be a neutral observer. From that vantage point, you can help mediate the discussion. […] define roles and set ground rules. Again, the employees are the primary players here, not you.

5. Make The Conflict Mean Something
When team members butt heads over a project-related issue, it's sometimes the sign of creativity and innovation trying to break through. Employees who are close to the work often have great ideas for better solutions. So help them brainstorm these ideas, then help them evaluate and prioritize them.
That employee who asks you to step in and resolve an issue may not know it at the time, but they're really asking for help to grow. So embrace the conflict, don't solve it. When everyone on your team can step up and own the issues they confront by working together, everyone benefits.

This article was published on FastCompany.com on September 25. It is adapted from The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager, Team Leader, HR Professional, or Anyone Who Wants to Resolve Disputes and Increase Productivity (Career Press, September 2015) by Cornelia Gamlem and Barbara Mitchell.

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