Don’t Give Your Employees All the Answers

I remember a teacher I had in high school who used to get on everyone’s nerves because almost every question we asked about a homework assignment would be answered with an, “I don’t know. Look it up.”

Our class thought she was the laziest teacher ever. One day, a student snapped back at the teacher and said, “But that’s your job! It’s what our tax dollars pay you to do.”

The teacher looked up—unfazed by the comment—and said:

“My job is to prepare you for the next phase of life. They don’t hand you the answers in college. I gave you the knowledge, and you have plenty of resources. Use that to figure out what you need to do.”

In the workplace, it’s a leader’s job to help develop his or her employees for the next stage of their career; but a lot of employees never have to use any critical thinking skills because they always get solutions from their boss—instead of having to figure it out on their own.

It’s hard to not make decisions for your employees, though. After all, you’re the boss! However, leadership is not a dictatorship; and you’re not doing your team any favors by thinking for them.

The saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Don’t be so eager to give each and every solution—equip your team with the skills to be able to make those higher-level decisions.

When they ask a question you feel they can talk themselves through, ask their opinion. Help them walk through the pros and cons of a scenario. Do less talking and more listening in conversations and meetings.

It will take some time, but helping them make the right decisions will cultivate them to become better leaders. It will also help you build trust in the decisions your employees make.

Hope Boyd
Written by:
Hope Boyd
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources

2 responses

  1. You are so correct. I remember when my sons were young and they would ask a question, I would always say “think it out, that is called deductive reasoning.” My reply eventually became just “deductive reasoning!”

    It really aggravated them (and their Mom) when I would do that. As they got older, one of my sons said “Dad. I really didn’t like that back then, but now I know you taught us how to think and reason things out! That has really paid off.”

    Of course he went on to say their reasoning ability made them better than kids who were just smart. Because smart kids memorized things and giving them something new hindered them!

    Next on their list is humility!

    1. HAHA! Great story, Charles. And that’s a great lesson to learn.

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