Good morning.

I hope you’re ready for a great week!  It’s the first day of autumn.  It is definitely cooling down.  I’ll probably have to start doing these inside soon.

I’m excited that I get to go back out on the road this week with a client in Massachusetts.  I’m looking forward to seeing them again and getting back in the game to help them elevate their performance.

Let me remind you that the theme this month is Let Go.  We’ve been sharing some ideas to help leaders let go and allow their people to do the things they need to do.  This is the third decision that leaders need to make every day to serve the needs of their teams.  The first is Love – put the needs of others ahead of your own.  The second is Learn – go seek to understand the work and the people doing the work so you can help them satisfy their needs.

Letting go is a little tricky because we still have to stay connected and monitor the work so we can provide support and resources when necessary, but we need to do this in a way that isn’t perceived as either micro-managing nor abandoning. 

We’ve spent time talking about metrics and visual management systems, organizing the workplace, other ways that leaders can maintain their own sense of control without revoking control and ownership from the people they have empowered.

But what happens when there’s a problem? 

Nearly every where I go, when a problem comes up it’s like everyone expects the leader to solve it and they wait for him or her to tell them what to do.  It happens in big companies and little companies; in government offices, schools, and hospitals; it happens everywhere, even in organizations that are working at high level so of operational excellence.

It’s a natural tendency we have.  When something happens, we naturally want to do something about it.  If it hurts, we want to end the pain – or maybe just grunt it out to see how much we can take.

So what should an effective leader do when there’s a problem?

First, ask questions.  Do they have everything they need to solve a problem?  Is anyone else having the same type of problem?  How long do you think it will take to solve it?  Is it isolated and contained?  What do you need from me to help solve the problem?

Then, do a Problem-Solving focused gemba walk.  Go and see where the problem actually occurred and ask more questions so you can understand the problem better. 

But remember, you are not there to solve the problem.  You are there to offer you support and encouragement.  You can also ask coaching questions to make sure they are doing the critical thinking required to solve the problem themselves.

Keep the gemba walk short or people will start expecting you to interfere.  When you leave, simply say that if they need anything to let you know, and when they’ve got a solution to let you know.

When they bring you the solution, try to keep in mind that it’s not for you to approve or disapprove.  It’s their solution.  If it works, it’s their solution.  If it doesn’t work, ask them what they intend to try next. 

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow!