Management Matters: Encouraging Solutions From Others

No matter what industry you work in, what level you manage at, or how long you have in in a management position, the biggest error managers make is thinking that they need to have (or DO have) all of the answers. If you want to get the job of ‘getting work done through others’ accomplished, managers need to engage people so that they feel welcome, respected and valued.

Sure, you can give them applause and ‘atta boys’ and ‘atta girls;’ and it may go without saying that you should provide clear and concise direction. Those things however are not strategies for engagement. The best way to show people that they are important is to ask for their input when you are problem solving.

The job of the manager is to facilitate the development of their team, not only to make decisions and assign work. The manager is not the person to whom all problems should come to for solutions. A good manager should be developing problem solvers. If you think that a great manager is to the person to come up with the best solutions, you might want to revisit that assumption!


  • Know how your employees differ from one another and from you. Ask them to describe their ideal manager so that you can learn who is looking for firm direction and who wants more independence; then treat them accordingly (basing some of that on their ability to deliver outcomes.).
  • Ask more questions for employees who seek to be more involved. Ask them to come to you with options for solutions, not only problems. Give them time to reflect rather than insist on delivering answers immediately.
  • Ask more questions to find out what they think. Then be quiet and listen to what they have to say.(Note: for mane managers, this is the hardest part so you may need to practice being patient, not speaking, and waiting until you get a response.)
  • Manage expectations by making your role clear (repeatedly if necessary). Make sure they understand the benefits of your taking a more facilitative and supportive role. Explain that you want to engage them and foster broader ownership rather than be the ‘one with all the answers.” While some people may prefer to be told what to do, that doesn’t develop their problem solving skills and puts the manager in the role of someone who runs a ’24 hour help desk.”
  • Hold regular one-to-one meetings with each employee and ask them what went well and what didn’t since your last meeting. Encourage them to think of at least 2 things they did that they are pleased about. When you move to what hasn’t gone well, use questions to encourage ideas for improvement out of them. What will they do differently next time?
  • Think strategically about which decisions you have to make and which decisions need to be drawn out of others.
  • Don’t keep all the ‘fun and ‘sexy’ stuff for yourself - delegate real developmental challenges.

Remember that when managing people, ‘one size will not fit all.’ To manage the wide variety of people effectively, the best managers broaden their role to include being a catalyst for learning and development with a style that is flexible enough to adapt to the needs of different employees.

Nationally recognized consultant, trainer, author and professional speaker Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management consulting practice that specializes in developing people in the areas of leadership and management, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 30 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

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