I asked a client what the upstream issues were that impeded her productivity. She immediately identified two areas (1) accurate information from the field service technicians and (2), accurate scheduling from the service coordinator.
I suggested one correctional activity. Coach them to accuracy.
One element of coaching is identifying key questions to help the employee arrive at the solution themselves. Banging on with the same complaint again and again simply trains team members to develop selective listening disease to tune you out.
… and you don’t want that.
So, when you need to solve an upstream problem such as improving accuracy, approach the relevant person as coach rather than manager, and ask “what do you propose we do about this? How can we resolve the issue?” Once you’ve asked the question, stay silent.
Using the word we, positions both of you on the same side. Remaining silent creates a context for them to “learn, improve and grow rather than to just get something sorted out”.1 Solutions that employees identify are more likely to work too. They often know the details and therefore the mechanics of solving it; and, also because having solved it, they are more likely to stick with it to prove it works. After that, the rest is supporting them to implement their changes.
Protecting and enhancing your productivity is vital. When workloads increase and people are involved, upstream issues often affect downstream productivity. A coaching approach can make big problems easier to solve and foster positive work relationships where people feel valued and respected for their contribution. Bringing such issues to a halt well before they hit your desk is always a happy outcome.
1 Bungay-Stainer Michael (2016). The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever. Box of Crayons Press. Toronto. Canada.
*Photo by Cristofer Jeschke