How to Empower Your People & Save Yourself from Burnout: Coach, Don’t Tell

Dwight Strayer, Chief Operations Officer at Service Express, was on the fast-track to burnout until he made an important realization: by giving his team members the answers to their questions, he was preventing them from developing their technical and leadership skills. Hear Strayer’s story in the video above, part of the Return on Values research project.

Watch this video with your senior leadership team, then use the questions below to launch a discussion on your own management styles. 

Discussion Guide

COO Dwight Strayer withholds answers from his technicians, choosing to ask questions and guide team members toward answers rather than giving them solutions. The result of this coaching-driven approach is a workforce that is skilled at problem solving.

With this in mind, discuss the following questions with your leadership team:

  • Is burnout a concern at your highest levels of leadership? What about the next level of management? Is this concern at all related to a “telling” management style instead of a “coaching” leadership approach?
  • Ask each leader to think back to the last few times a direct report has identified a problem or concern. How did your leaders handle these situations? Is there a pattern of answer-giving, or a pattern of coaching?
  • Do you have a workforce that is skilled at problem solving? How have you taught or encouraged this skill? How have you recognized exceptional efforts at problem solving?
  • In situations where a customer is affected, how much tolerance do you have for taking a coaching approach rather than a “telling” approach with your team members? What guidelines should determine the chosen approach for each circumstance?
  • Question-asking rather than answer-giving can be an important strategy in empowering employees to resolve their own concerns. Ask each executive to make an intentional effort at more question-asking in the coming month, and to report back on its impact at the next leadership team meeting.

Are you a coach or a commander?: What works in your organization? Share your stories in the comments box below.

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