Breathe out. We are getting close. We are only a week and a half from Thanksgiving. Then the crazy month of December begins but for many, this includes some time off. It is the time of the year that we begin to set our intentions for the next year, but often feel too burned out to do so with any creativity.
Have you ever wondered why you are tired and burned out and how to make next year different? There is probably no single answer to this question, but for many leaders at least part of the answer is because you are solving the same problem repeatedly. And that wears a person out. I’ve shared Susan Scott’s quote from Fierce Conversations before: “Burnout doesn’t occur because we are solving problems. It occurs because we are solving the same problem again and again.” I’ve focused before on making sure you are looking at your systems to get the results you intend. Today, the focus is on people.
If you are leading, you are working with people and you are relying on people to solve some of their own problems. Often, they come to you with the same problem again and again and have not been able to find their own solutions. The best leaders aid their team and alleviate their own burnout by helping solve their own problems. This requires moving from a manager to a coach, empowering the person to think through possible solutions and to commit to an action that they think will best help move them in the right direction.
Back in the 1980s, Sir John Whitmore of Performance Consultants International created the GROW model (pictured above), and it has become a backbone tool for many coaching companies. Interestingly, it has had effectiveness among those not formally trained as coaches, with the education sector for example implementing it as a peer coaching model for small cohorts of teachers. It is so simple, and I describe it below. Before you read on, think about that one thing that you are tired of helping others solve. The thing that occupies far more of your time than you’d like. As you read about the model, consider how these four steps could lighten your load and “grow” a team member to be a more effective problem solver.
For all steps, your role as “coach” is to ask questions. Each step below focuses on important questions that might help move the conversation forward through each step.
- Step one is to set the goal or problem to be solved. Sometimes as leader, you must set the goal at the start of the conversation and agree with the team member you want him or her to be able to solve this him/her/their self. Then through some guided questions, you ask the team member to better define what needs to happen. Potential questions for this step are: What is your goal for our discussion today? How would you like it be? What will that enable you to do? What is different now from in the past that is causing frustration? If this problem went away, what would be different?
2. Step two (R-eality) allows the team member to focus on where the problem is right now and the impact it is having. This step is important because it allows consideration of the other people who are being impacted by it and thus the importance of making sure it doesn’t continue. Important questions for this step are things such as: How do you feel about this? How is it impacting you? How is impacting others? Why does it keep happening? How are contributing to this problem? Have you done anything so far that takes you toward your goal?
- Now that the goal and the current reality are clear, it is important to consider what “o-ptions” there are to solve the problem (step three). Potential important questions in this stage are: What ideas do you have? Are there any alternative? What have you tried already? Is there anything else? If so, what? If you were going to try something, what might it be? What has worked in the past? Where could you find that information? Ideally, you are able to work your way through all four steps in the one conversation. However, if the team member is really stuck or needs to get more information, you might pause the conversation here and ask him or her to gather more information and then return to offer thoughts on what options might work, or if s/he had to try something, what might it be?
- Finally, we get to the step where your team member commits to taking action after working to him/her/their self to determine the best possible path forward. This final step is “w-ill” because it is about the next step that the team member is committing to do. Important potential questions are: What will you do? How? When will you do it? Who will you talk to? What timing is best? Are there distractions that need to be removed for this conversation you are about to have? What responsibility will you take for your own piece of this problem? Is there anything else that needs to be in place before you act? How committed are you to the solution.
Those are the steps. They are so simple and yet so challenging because they require not giving advice but continuing to ask questions so that the employee solves the problem independently. If you try this, I’d love to hear about your experience. Remember that whatever action the team member takes may not fully solve the problem, so be present for debriefing and let them know that the important part is weighing the best option, taking action, and then sticking to it or tweaking it based on the results