Work sucks because you and your team have all these problems that you don’t know how to fix, and you keep trying to fix them, while nothing seems to change.
You need to stop it! I know that doesn’t make much sense right now, but it will in a bit.
What if I told you that when trying to fix people or problems, the “fixing” approach is the problem?
We’re going to talk about management and leadership along the way, but more importantly I want you to know that if you follow the next 9 articles, I’m going to help you figure out what to do when:
- Your team (your subordinates) want you to do everything for them.
- People don’t share the full story, and you can’t do your job efficiently or autonomously.
- You don’t trust that anything can be done at the quality you need, so you have to do it yourself.
- You don’t feel comfortable giving direct feedback and letting people know when they fucked up because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.
- Gossip has taken over, and feelings are hurt because someone shared a secret that was meant for only them to hear.
- Being a workaholic impacts your health, you start to resent your job, and resent people at your job.
- You feel that everyone on your team sucks.
- You’re losing customers and can’t figure out why.
- You’re fed up, and don’t care anymore if you get fired.
If work sucks, I want teach you how to build trust, autonomy and most importantly, how to stop fixing.
You’ll be able to grow as a leader and move up the ranks, and even take your best employees with you.
You shouldn’t be fixing other people’s problems and neither should I, so we’re going to use some questions along the way to think about how to look at your problems differently, because that’s what great coaches do.
Build Trust in the Workplace
Of the 9 scenarios I mentioned above, how many of them resonate with your lived experience? At various points in my own career I’ve experienced each one, and it sucked every time.
Looking back at those experiences, and comparing them to similar experiences I hear from my clients whose work sucks, trust is the underlying theme that stands out.
In the midst of conflict with hopes of resolution, or through efforts to get that next job, people come to me for help and trust that I’ll be able to make things better for them.
With a deadline looming, who are the people you want working the project with you and why? The list of people and their attributes distill down to a form of trust, right?
When you don’t trust that anything can be done at the quality needed, you just do it yourself.
That’s because everyone on your team sucks. You can’t give them direct feedback either, or let them know when they fuck up because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.
Things get worse when people don’t share the full story of a situation, and you can’t do your job.
This results in you putting in lots of extra hours which starts to impact your health, leads you to resent your job, and resenting everyone at your job.
Many have lost your trust, and what are you prepared to do about it?
Blame is a valid option, but that doesn’t have you take any ownership of how you contributed to the overall dynamic.
If you really want a fix for all of this, the answer lies deep inside your thinking.
How Do You Define Trust?
Not in the sense of a text book dictionary definition, but your own personal definition that you operate on an everyday basis.
With that definition, what does it look like in practice? What are the actions you take while demonstrating that you trust someone?
What are the actions others can take to demonstrate that they trust you?
With all these answers at hand, the most important question is, “what has prevented you from having this conversation with others?”
You’ve identified what trust means and looks like, yet haven’t been explicit in sharing your perspective, nor have you asked what others’ perspective is. Does their work suck too?
There hasn’t been the foundation setting conversation on the topic, where negations can happen to ensure that everyone’s needs get met.
It is this foundational conversation that sets you up to actually build and earn trust with individuals and your team as a whole.
What would it look like for you to start this conversation, as a way to push the reset button on your relationships?
What will be possible for you as you strengthen trust in them?
What if having more autonomy for yourself and promoting it in others, were increased as a result?
A Micromanaging Boss Won’t Get Their Intended Results
A lack of trust leads to telling or being told exactly how to do your job.
When this happens to you, aside from the not feeling trusted, you probably feel a lack of autonomy also.
If they don’t think you can do your job, what are you still doing there in the first place?
If people report to you in your role, and you have to tell them specifically how to execute their job functions regularly, what purpose are they serving on your team?
Maybe you inherited them, or they’ve been there so long they’re part of the décor. Whatever the reasons for why people occupy the seat they do, someone is failing them.
If it’s the subordinates on your team and you can’t get them to think for themselves in doing their jobs, think about all the reasons why you can’t trust them to do their part.
How do you think they feel in this dynamic?
What reasons do they have to think for themselves, and then execute on those thoughts?
What have you done to condition them to show up in this way?
“Your team lacks the autonomy to do their job to the best of their abilities, because you won’t let them.”
When you’re losing customers and can’t figure out why, who better to involve than those who directly interface with said customers?
So what if you used to be the top sales person, you’re now the sales manager and your valuable experience doesn’t help your subordinates leverage their talents in the moment with a customer.
Telling them what to do in scenarios only teaches them to follow orders or rules and not how to think.
When your employees can start thinking for themselves, their talents naturally start to show up and close deals because they can be themselves with customers.
That empowerment and confidence is what customers are attracted to, along with the product.
Maybe your sales people don’t share the full story of the challenges with a customer, because they aren’t engaged enough to catch all the details, and you can’t do your job effectively in the end.
Eventually you get fed up, and don’t care anymore if you get fired because these people suck. So what are you prepared to do about it?
How To Gain Trust: Make Others Feel Trusted
What is it that would fix your problem? How can you be sure that fix will be successful? Hopefully trust is a part of your solution, as we talked about earlier.
What are you doing to ensure the people who report to you feel trusted?
With that trust, how can they execute their roles in ways that leave them feeling empowered to think for themselves in the moment? What additional training might they need to be successful?
Take all this a step further, and think about what they would say the answers to these questions are. What’s preventing you from having the conversation to ask them?
As long as you hold yourself as the expert, and they are to follow your guidance, you’ll stay in the position to fix all their problems and no one grows in that dynamic.
The All-Knowing Solutions Provider
You’re the resident expert or maybe even work for one. Your team counts on you to save the day and always know the right things to do.
This has you feeling like the all-knowing go to that everyone needs, very important and also powerful. There’s a catch though, it’s always your fault when your solutions fail.
That’s right, it was your idea, and thus your fault when things go sour. Sorry, but those are the rules of the game you’re playing. No one else wants to be responsible because they’re not trusted to be, nor do they have the autonomy to do so.
This becomes yet another reason you get fed up, and don’t care anymore if you get fired, because these people suck. However, there is a solution for this, and it will actually have you look even smarter than before.
All you have to do is start asking more questions.
Great Leaders Ask Great Questions
Yes you read that correctly, asking more questions is the secret to fixing problems. It’s what Coaches do as a profession, and what leaders do with their teams.
Imagine someone comes to you with a problem to solve, and instead of making assumptions about the depths of the situation, you ask questions to understand better.
Based on your experience you will instinctively assume and infer aspects within the story presented to you as a problem.
How often do you challenge your assumptions? Are your assumptions accurate 100% of the time?
Whatever your rate of error, sticking with assumptions is a choice and a habit. There’s an opportunity to fact check your assumptions 100% of the time, if you choose to do so.
When asking clarifying questions such as “what steps have been taken thus far?” or “what process was used to complete step X?”, what you’re really doing is highlighting the thought process being used by the person with the problem.
With your expertise you can ask questions that you know should have an answer, and the person needs to consider in the process.
The process is less about interrogating and more about curiosity and understanding how they see the problem.
Which is why open ended questions are more useful than closed ended questions, which only require a binary (yes/no or true/false) answer. It’s not simply, “work sucks.” It’s “why does your work suck?”
If no immediate answer can be found in the conversation, opportunities for the person to gather more information will be. Either way, you didn’t fix the problem and are only responsible for helping them think it through a bit deeper.
How might situations have gone differently if you used this approach? What are some unintended impacts created by being the all-knowing solution provider?
Not only can you reduce those impacts, but there’s now opportunity to focus on the impacts you want to have. What are those impacts, and what steps are required to make them happen? How will you partner with others in this process?
Free At Last
Hopefully you have a better understanding of trust, the effects of micromanaging, fixing problems for others and some ways they impact you and your job.
With the questions asked along the way, there’s opportunities for you to dig in and do some self-exploration to find where you can start taking different approaches.
If not different approaches then maybe new ways of seeing the problems you and others have.
We’ve covered quite a bit here, and in the remaining 9 articles, other common scenarios you face in your job as a member of a team or as the leader will be examined.
We’ll look at scenarios that you can find your own answers to, without going to someone else to get them fixed.