I've recently employed the coaching tactic of asking my directs 'what do you think?' when they come to me for questions/advice. What I'm struggling with is how I should respond to their ideas, good or bad. 

I recently had a direct ask me what he should do in a certain situation. I asked him, 'what do you think?' he then told me and I said 'that sounds good, give it a shot'. The employee then sent me and email 'per our is how I'm handling this...'. It came off as a CYA tactic to me and that he will finger point to me saying 'well I passed this off you and you said it was ok'. 

I'm trying to avoid that situation if/when i give him feedback based on the outcome of his individual decision. 

On the other side of the coin, if a direct gives me an idea that is just blatently wrong or has an obvious answer, do I then ask open ended questions to poke holes in it and steer them towards a better idea?

morin.jeanfr's picture


if i can give you my personal experience : try to define what is "responsability" and the delegation you give with your direct. He is responsible for the decision he makes and your are also responsible and assume that. Remind him that you are totally  in trust with him so he can be with you to assume decision.

i don't know if that sounds good (i am french :)).

It worked for me :)

K-Mars47's picture

Makes sense to me! Thanks!

DeveloperManager's picture
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If you haven't read it already, I recommend the book "Turn The Ship Around" by David Marquette.  The is about him trying to do what you're doing by challenging directs to come up with their own solutions.  Spoiler Alert: he succeeds :)

We've had a lot of conversations at my company, both with directs and among managers, about trying to encourage people to take ownership and push the boundaries of what they think they can do on their own.  Those conversations usually also include a few topics: 1) use common sense and don't intentionally do anything you know will put the company and our security at risk, 2) no one is likely going to be fired for trying something in good faith and failing (especially if there was communication along the way), 3) regardless of whose idea it was, responsibility for my department ends with me whether my direct acted on my orders on their own, I have to answer to the senior management team and the board.

It isn't easy to change the culture and to get people to trust themselves, and to trust that they won't be thrown under the bus if it goes sideways.  I believe it's worth it if you can do it, directs willing to step up and provide solutions are likely to be more engaged as they feel empowered.

Good luck!




K-Mars47's picture

Added the book to my reading list! thanks for the tip. I really like your 1,2,3. For the past tweleve months I've been working to 'turn my ship around' and I'm beginning to see this as just a bump along the way. Some folks are truly embracing this new mindset and it is amazing to watch - they are more empowered, highly satisified, more enagaged. Then, there are one or two folks that just aren't taking ownership and are still coming to me for easy answers. 

I had a one on one the other week where I asked 'what do you think' to a question. All I got was a long blank stare and about 2-3 minutes of awkward silence. Needless to say this was one of my lower performers who isnt willing to adjust, think for themself and take ownership. I've since been working to build up this individual's trust in themselves but unfortunately, a lot of the decisions they are making are wrong ones. When I present them feedback and coaching - it is mostly ignored or combatted with the '1 million reasons not to'. #frustrating.