A new leader came to me one time and asked for more responsibility. He said, “I feel like I have solved most of the challenges within my team.” This seemed unlikely, but hey you never know, so I went with it. “What makes you think that?” He went on to talk about how when he first started he would hear issues being brought to him each day. “It was overwhelming at times,” he explained. “But now, I rarely hear from anyone and I think that’s a good sign that things are going really well.”
“Really? Nobody has complaints of policies, or system problems, or personal issues that they want to discuss?” I questioned him. “Not really,” he responded. Well that was the first red flag I had. I have been managing teams for over 20 years, and one thing you can count on when managing the daily operations of complex organizations – there will most certainly be problems, issues, and concerns brought up.
I then went on to explain to him a simple lesson that I learned a long time ago, and it goes like this: The minute people stop bringing you concerns, one of two things has happened. 1) They have lost faith that you can solve them or 2) They don’t believe you care about their problems. Either one of these is a failure of leadership.
The bottom line is that managing operations on a daily basis is really about solving problems in order to allow things to run smoothly. When the front line team members are bringing issues up, that provides an opportunity for a leader to step up and demonstrate their ability to make things happen. To solve the problems that managers are not able to solve. This is a golden opportunity and when it happens, a leader should welcome it.
This is not to say the more issues the better, but it is highly unlikely that a leader has solved all the problems of the day. So when no issues or concerns are being brought up – I can almost guarantee the team has stopped wasting their breath in discussing them with their “leader” which is danger zone for that leader.
You can’t fix things if you don’t know about them. So what should you do if you are unsure if this is happening. Simple, ask your team. Round on them daily. Ask them how things are going, and listen to what they say. When a concern is raised that they are asking for help with, solve it, thank them for bringing it up and then repeat the process regularly.
The telltale sign that you have problems is that you may not be hearing about any problems.
My name is Mark Behl. My passion is leadership. I share ideas, not lectures. If you would like to share an idea with me, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you come back for future posts.