At the heart of effective problem solving is a great question. It has been said that all the right answers are out there. We just have to ask the right questions. Leaders must not move too quickly into problem solving. Many times leaders come up with less effective solutions because the correct question is not being asked. I have practiced what I call question-centered problem solving in my executive and coaching career. It is the process of asking questions about the original question to ensure the right question is being asked before searching for a solution.
Effective leaders are great communicators. They share their purpose, vision and goals consistently and often with their team. When done properly, this communication engenders greater buy-in and engagement from the team. The best communicators happen to be great listeners. They know how to effectively appeal to and communicate with each individual team member.
Don’t be the smartest person in the room. Don’t speak first. Ask team members for their opinion on important subjects. Speak last and share your opinion. As you share your opinion, be sure to thank team members for their input. If relevant, share with the team how their input impacted your decision-making process. While leadership is not a consensus process, it is critical to listen to other viewpoints and opinions.
Fail forward. Let your people fail. It will be a learning experience. Help them get back on their feet. I have had several direct reports in my career move in a direction that I knew would create failure. I asked a lot of questions to understand their thinking and ultimately I let them make the decision. Steve Jobs was well known for creating a culture where failure was celebrated. It is difficult to be innovative without failing your way forward to achieve it.
Multiple touch points with employees are the hallmark of a great leader. Every contact with an employee is an opportunity to listen, learn, teach, coach and inspire. The greatest impact a leader will have occurs during one-on-one interactions. Be prepared for every interaction and have a plan on what you can do to impact that person.