Leadership Follies – Doing is Not Developing

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Do you wonder why the folks that report to you rely on you to solve their problems?  Probably because you always do this for them. You solve their problems. You teach them to come to you.

This is great if you are a parent or the star of a reality TV show called “Problem Solver.”

But, as a leader having people rely on you to solve their problems creates a cycle of dependency.  That isn’t leadership that is enabling bad behavior.  Want to create leaders? Start with developing accountability

Developing Accountability

AccountabilityLeaders and their teams are inundated with stimuli. With all the tweets, IM’s, emails, phone calls and “drop-ins” it is hard to think straight let alone get anything done.

More often than not, we simply react to questions or issues that are brought to our attention.

It is easier to do that than reflect and ask questions.  But in order to develop leaders on our teams, we must stop doing for people and start expecting them to do.

The Accountability Muscle

Let’s look at how to encourage your team to develop this muscle.

John brings a problem to you. It is urgent and needs to be dealt with RIGHT NOW.

  • Thank John for coming to you.
  • Ask him “Why is this issue occurring?”  Follow that up with one or two other why questions to get to the real issue
  • Once the real issue is uncovered, ask him –

◦       “What is the outcome you want?” or

◦       “What would success look like” or

◦       “What would happen if you did nothing”

  • Finally, ask him

◦       “How would you make [the outcome he stated previously] happen? or

◦       What is the process you’d use to make that happen?

  • Help him tweak the process/solution he suggested but unless people’s lives are in danger or some other safety issue could occur, do not give him the answer EVEN IF YOU KNOW IT.

The last thing you need to do is to encourage him to go out and implement his solution, even if you’re not 100% it will work.

Encouraging Failure

It is better to try and fail than not to try at all.” ~ Henry Ford

Don’t shield the people on your team from failure.  That is not going to help them grow or learn.  Failure is one of the greatest tools for people to understand what to do and not to do.  Failure avoidance only causes us to limit ourselves.  It stifles our innovation and creativity.

Push the people on your team to implement their own solutions.  Of course they should do their due diligence, but it’s critical that they are coming up with and implementing their ideas.  Whether the solution is successful or not, they will learn.  It will foster growth.

Giving Away Responsibility

Once people start implementing their own solutions and coming to you less to solve their problems, start giving them more responsibility or authority.  This doesn’t mean that you should abdicate your role or stop overseeing things.  Instead, it is recognizing their growth and rewarding them.

As a leader, your primary roles are:

  • Develop other leaders
  • Ensure people understand the impact they have on gaining and retaining customers

The more you responsibility you can give to your team, the less they will rely on you to solve al their problems.  This will allow you to focus on leading, finding innovative ways to serve your customers, or develop yourself.

As leaders, the worst thing that we can do for our teams is to solve all their problems for them.  It makes them dependent on you and limits their growth.

How do you encourage accountability? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Anil Saxena
Anil Saxena is a Senior Consultant and Business Partner with Coffman Organization
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | (888) 999-0940 x-730

Image Sources: gdj.gdj.netdna-cdn.com, forward-now.com

L2L Contributing Author


  1. Tina Del Buono, PMAC on June 20, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Great post, growing other leaders is such an honor!

  2. Jodelle on June 27, 2013 at 7:38 am

    A great post! As an entry-level professional trying to build my career, I have become much more aware of my capabilities as a follower and as a leader from working with various types of bosses. I’ve had hands-on VPs who outline what they want and then leave the project in my hands; supervisors who lazily leave employee recognition to employee of the month programs; directors who pinpoint every single detail they want to the point that I have no creative input; and the best-those who’ve told me their expectations of a certain project and give me authority, responsibility and accountability of major projects like website renovation. And you know what? The first and the last of the mentioned were the best. I solicited their ideas, incorporated them into the project, took the initiative to research and go beyond their expectations of me. The EmployeeSurveyToolkit.com website is essentially my brain child, with the greatest support and ideas from my general manager. Then I went and researched a suitable newsletter subscription manager for us (sign up guys for great content!!!). Then I went and thought of new things to implement. And I’ll keep going.
    For those who’re interested in improving leadership capability – for themselves or for others in the workplace – definitely visit http://www.EmployeeSurveyToolkit.com for a free leadership survey to start with learning what your employees think, and go from there.
    Develop your followers into leaders. Your company will benefit from it!!!