… with your problems; come with your solutions.”
I hear this style of management quoted often as being great practice; after all, a manager’s job is to coach.
And I would like to raise an alarm bell. If someone is drowning, they need you to throw a line, or even jump in with them. They don’t need you to coach them to swim.
How Would This Management Policy Work Here?
A few days ago, someone came to speak to me about a very current and desperate issue that they had been struggling with for days. They were at the end of their tether with a problem and were close to tears. If I had said
“and what do you think you should do about that? What are your options? What has worked before?”
I rather suspect that would have finished them off.
They didn’t need coaching. They did need someone to listen but they also needed some help. I wasn’t the expert but I was in a position where I could offer some ideas because I wasn’t the one drowning. I jumped in and offered a life belt. It was just enough to give them some space, take hold of their emotions and see a way through.
So What Is A Great Management Policy?
A manager’s job is to build the environment where individuals can thrive. Sometimes they need telling how to do stuff. Sometimes they absolutely do not. A blanket policy of “don’t come to me with your problems” means you never get to hear about their problems. And that’s not great either. So a policy that decides how you reply before they have spoken is no good. It doesn’t work for them and it doesn’t work for the manager.
Instead, dial up the empathy, listen carefully and then choose the right approach: Tell, Teach, Mentor or Coach. Be the manager that people can come to and get what they need (which may not always be what they want.) You can only do that if you are empathetic enough and flexible enough to choose how to respond.
If you say don’t come to me with problems, what you are saying is “Don’t come to me, particularly when it’s really difficult” and no employee wants to hear that.
You can find other thoughts on great management practice here: