Golden Retrievers Make Terrible Employees

Last week we talked about how to start training your employees to handle problems effectively.

Ask, “What would you do?”

And then if their idea wouldn’t cause any harm or create unnecessary risk, even if it’s not what you would do or how you would fix the problem, you should let them implement their idea.

The two most common objections to this method are:

  • I can’t do that because I’d be giving them too much power and things will get out of hand.
  • It’s faster and or easier to either give them the answer or just fix it myself.

Let’s address each one of these in turn.

One misconception about asking your underling, “What would you do?” is that by asking them you are implicitly giving them free rein to handle the problem as they see fit. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

You’re still the boss. Which means you retain the right to say no to their idea. Remember, you’re only agreeing to hear their idea. Then, if it has merit, you can either amend it or green light it.

Now, if the issue is you don’t want to ask because you’re afraid of the confrontation of saying no to their idea…(AKA it was a bad idea)…then maybe you shouldn’t be managing people.

Second objection. It’s faster and or easier to either give them the answer or just fix it yourself.

Well, you’re right. Giving them the answer is faster. In the short term. But long term you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

By not making the investment of time to train your staff to be problem solvers, you end up with a team of Golden Retrievers. They drop their problems at your feet, then happily bound off in search of new problems to bring you.

It might be fun for a while. But it’s not a business model that allows growth.

So, what happens when you take the time to hear your employees’ ideas and then empower them to implement their solutions?

You end up with competent employees who can make good decisions, handle things on their own, and only ask for your help on the really big problems.

And with that, there’s no cap to how big you can build your business.

– Zac Smith, VC