If you are a leader, your employees may feel like they want to come to you with every little question they have during the workday. These interruptions make it hard to do focused work, and are a sign that people don’t feel empowered to make decisions on their own. In this article, they make the following suggestions to address this issue.
- Model focus. Make clear that an “open-door policy” doesn’t mean that anyone is allowed to interrupt us at any time for any reason. Designate do-not-disturb times with some sort of signal, such as a do-not-disturb sign, a cubicle flag, or headphones. And empower our team to similarly protect their focus time. Everyone should know what the signals are and what they mean.
- Promote confidence in your staff. Make sure everyone understands the responsibilities of their role and the types of decisions they can — and should — make on their own. Then, encourage them to find their own solutions to day-to-day problems. Instead of answering questions, try using the phrase, “I trust your judgment.”
- Emphasize that it’s OK to make mistakes. When someone does make a bad call, bring attention to the lesson learned, and make sure it sticks, but if the decision was ethical and made in good faith, be supportive and empathetic. Use mistakes as teaching opportunities so that people become more self-sufficient in the future.
I’ll add one more. When someone comes to us with a problem, set the expectation that they also need to with 3 potential solutions. That will ensure that they’ve given it some thought rather than just coming to us whenever there is an issue. Often, they’ll actually resolve it for themselves. If not, we can discuss their proposed alternatives. And, only if necessary, suggest one of our own.