HR & Management

Things you can do before giving advice as a manager

4 min read

23 March 2018

Before jumping in and giving advice to your employee the next time an issue arises, try one of the following techniques from Karen Meager and John McLachlan, founders of the Monkey Puzzle management training school.

Many business managers are natural problem-solvers, and this is often one of the traits that see these individuals go into management in the first place.

Often when managers are approached with a problem, whether in or out of the work environment, their instinct dictates giving advice to help fix that problem.

Even if you don’t have a natural tendency to solve problems, we still like to support others in difficult times and do what we can to help out. Giving advice and being able to help others makes us feel valued.

But as much as we might like giving advice to help others with their problems, we also know that this is of little long-term benefit to the person with the issue, as it takes away their chance to consider options and come to a solution themselves.

We have spent years coaching people, and never once have we met someone whose own problem-solving ideas were not as good as the ones we supplied them. It is important in business for people to unlock their thinking and take matters into their own hands.

As a manager if you often find yourself jumping in to solve your employee’s problems for them, next time consider doing one of the following before giving advice.

Observation

Try allowing the person to take a while to shadow a colleague and observe them carrying out a task. Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and social learning theory both agree that as humans, it is in our nature to learn by observing others do something and then trying it for ourselves.

When you are managing a large number of people, who have a wide range of skills, delegating support and training among the team like this is a great way to go about it.

Storytelling

This can be a much better way of helping someone with a problem than just explaining to them. Consider an experience you have had, or know someone else has had, that can compare to the situation at hand, and explain how that person managed to overcome the difficulty.

From this, the person is able to explore the situation, and take what they deem to be valuable from your story, rather than having their approach dictated to them. Not only is this good for problem solving, it builds rapport and boosts working relationships.

Multichoice

If you are struggling to think of a creative or more independent way for a person to solve a problem, try a classic multichoice approach and give them several different options to apply.

This way, you can still offer support to the person without doing the work for them, and it encourages them to explore the options themselves and consider what would be the best solution for them. By making the person do at least half the work themselves when problem solving, you allow them to build character and own their decisions.

Manage emotions

Sometimes, the situation calls for a more hands-on approach when an employee is experiencing problems, which is why it is important to gauge the scenario properly before offering a solution.

If a situation is a particularly emotional one – say, the person is angry or frustrated – it is important to defuse this turmoil before moving on to solving the problem. Any of the solutions suggested here could be received as rejection and prove irritating in an already emotional situation, so make everybody’s wellbeing the priority and play it by ear.

Problems are even harder to solve if someone is not feeling their best, so take steps to manage emotions before anything else.