Teach Your Team to Think Through Challenges

by Marcus

Business owners and managers frequently ask me, “How do you teach people to think?” It’s a powerful question that can lead to significant improvements in results.

THE ANSWER: by learning to become a mentor and effective communicator and consistently encouraging team members to think for themselves.

There’s a tendency among some business owners and managers to simply supply answers rather than invest time with team members to help them find the answers. There’s a prevailing belief this saves time. That might be accurate in the short term. But this approach costs more time in the long run, weakens businesses and adds to the responsibilities of owners and managers as team members remain dependent on them for solutions.

Thinking is the process of evaluating a situation and then exploring possible actions that will lead to the desired solution or outcome. If you want your company to operate at the highest levels, your team members must be taught it’s acceptable — and then continually encouraged — to think their way through situations rather than relying on you and others for answers or guessing at solutions.

How do you use effective communication to encourage people to think for themselves? Begin by creating a safe environment for team members to ask questions. This is accomplished through composure — not becoming angry, condescending, demeaning, disappointed, frustrated or judgmental as you work together to find a viable solution. Build a constructive learning environment where team members are safe to expose what they don’t know as they work with and learn from you.

It’s important to understand people who don’t feel safe asking questions will often guess as to what action is best to take or take no action at all. This leads to errors that can ripple through business operations. Accounts aren’t handled effectively, time and resources are wasted, customers become disgruntled and business suffers. This in turn will result in more time and resources spent addressing both errors and relationships with customers.

Encourage team members to come to you with questions rather than guessing about the correct course of action. Help them realize there’s strength in tapping available resources to create understanding, learning and successful solutions.

Here’s a critical component to your success: Rather than simply telling team members the correct answers, take time to work with them in exploring the situation. Ask them open-ended questions about the situation with which they’re dealing. This will allow everyone involved to develop greater clarity as you work together for a solution.

Ask team members what possible solutions they see. Continue asking open-ended questions to fully draw out their perspectives. If their perspectives aren’t accurate, ask further questions to help them deduce the best possible solution or send them in the direction of information that holds the solution.

Finally, have them teach you what they learned. This will let you know whether or not more work is needed and also help them to further ingrain what they’ve learned.

Over time, you’ll identify how best to mentor each individual, and team members will learn they can collaborate with you to improve their abilities to make sound decisions. This creates a strong bond between you and your team. In addition, your team will become more competent, fewer errors will be made and the company will deliver a far greater experience to customers.

Keep in mind most people have been conditioned to rely on others for answers rather than learn to think on their own. A lifetime of experiences have told them who to be, what to do and how to think. When this conditioning is understood and overcome, individuals access more of their potential and perform at higher levels.

You have a choice to make about the development of team members: You can either increase their dependency on you for solutions or empower them to look for and find answers on their own.

When you invest in your team members and their ability to think their way through a given situation, you help them to empower themselves. This grows their abilities, lessens their dependence on you for answers, strengthens your business from within and improves company performance.

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This article was written for and published in collaboration with The Business Times newspaper.


Marcus Straub

Author Marcus Straub

Marcus Straub is Founder and CEO of Life Is Great!™ (LIG) Coaching and Consulting, Inc. based in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Serving individuals of all ages and companies of all sizes, in locations across the country and around the world, Marcus specializes in the development of customized programs tailored to meet the unique goals of each individual client. Purposefully created to guide those involved toward unprecedented personal, professional, and organizational growth, Marcus has become well-known for his straightforward approach and systematic techniques.