When we are approached with a problem by an employee, it can be tempting to rush in and be their hero. We may even feel like it’s our job as a leader to run around managing emergencies and obstacles. This can be exhausting. Additionally, if we are always swooping in to solve people’s problems, how will they grow to become problem-solvers themselves? Wouldn’t it be better for the organization to create an army of problem solvers 


  1. A good relationship 
  2. Approachability 
  3. Willingness to work side-by-side 
  4. Efficient systems 
  5. Training and development 
  6. Resources to do the job 
  7. Appreciation 

 What do you notice about this list?  

That’s right, “solve my problems” is nowhere to be foundPeople want to be empowered by their leaders. They want to feel like they are valuable to the team and they want to learn new skills. Employees want leaders to coach them and offer feedback that includes opportunities to improve while ensuring they have everything necessary to execute their work. Rather than trying to be a hero who solves every problem, employees are looking for you to coach and support their development. 


The next time an employee approaches you with a problem or challenge, begin the coaching conversation by asking, “What do you think we should do?”  

If the employee responds with, “I don’t know,” ask, “If you did know, what would be some of your ideas?” This question usually generates several options and viable solutions.  

In some situations it might be useful to ask, “What steps have you taken so far?” to direct the coaching conversation. Remember, resist any urge to instruct or tell the person what they should do and instead focus on listening and asking probing and clarifying questions to coach the employee to a solution. For more complicated situations we may decide to bring the obstacle to a team for further research into the cause and possible solutions.  

When we spend time coaching people to find their own solutions the entire team wins. Leaders have more time to focus on steering the organization into the future, employees feel valued and empowered and ultimately our customers receive better service. What questions do you recommend for coaching employees through their problems? Leave your suggestions for other leaders in the comments below.  


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