One of the most common issues I see when coaching leaders is leader fatigue caused by constant interruptions that prevent them from dedicated “think time” for planning and project completion. They often don’t see that their response is actually enabling the very behavior that is exhausting them.
I recently talked with a new manager who proudly declared, “I won’t ask my team members to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.” She went on to cite numerous examples of how she stepped in to solve problems that arose. In many cases, she took over clinical encounters. She complained that she was overwhelmed and that she could not possibly find time to do rounds, one-to-one discussions, or stay interviews.
During our coaching conversations, she discovered that she was: a) more comfortable at the bedside, so she was glad to step in; b) she is under the illusion that, because she is the manager, she is expected to have all the answers. These two revelations were pivotal in her growth as a coach.
In coaching both new and experienced leaders, I find that many share a common blind spot. They don’t see that because they continue to be the only problem-solver in the department, they never get a break. They have unwittingly enabled a team of dependent individuals who lack critical thinking skills.
This is a mindset issue. To foster independence, and critical thinking and avoid leader fatigue, the leader must be better at asking good questions than giving the answers.
1. Present opportunities for critical thinking. Ask, “What do you think?”
2. Reinforce critical thinking by complimenting ideas and solutions presented. “That is a good idea.” “That sounds like it will work.”
3. Watch for non-verbal cues about insecurity and probe further. Ask, “What about this makes you nervous or uncomfortable?” Use the opportunity to role-play possible scenarios. Reinforce good responses. “You handled that well.”
4. Avoid micro-managing the details. Don’t take over. Be the coach and teacher.
One of the main issues is that leaders must see themselves as coaches first. That means knowing how to ask good questions. The next time someone comes to you with a problem, before you give the answer, ask, “What do you think?”
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