Thinking is one of the most difficult things to do – that’s why so few people do it. Most employees think that their job is to do things and managers / founders job is to think. If you want to have time and mental energy for important things you need to teach your employees how to think, otherwise you will be buried under all thinking you need to do for them. Here are 4 easy ways how to make your employees think.
How To Teach Your Employees Think
1. ) Always give your opinion as last one
I never give my opinion first. When we do interviews I speak last. When we discuss plans and strategies I speak last. I don’t want my employees to repeat my opinions. I want them to think. I learned this while working at Procter & Gamble.
When advertising agency came to present story for new TV commercial during my time in P&G marketing, 4 people were present. Me, as most junior person, my boss (brand manager), her boss (marketing director) and his boss (our GM or CEO).
Once whole thing was presented it was our turn to give feedback to agency.
In most companies, CEO would give his/her feedback and others would nod and that would be it. Not in P&G.
Most junior person starts and then everybody gives feedback one by one with CEO being last. It doesn’t matter how long you’re with the company or what is your title.
Most junior person always gives feedback first.
Couple things will happen if you do it this way.
i) you hear what people really think without being influenced by senior people
ii) you teach your people to think and have opinion
iii) it will build great company culture
This is one of many great things I have learned in P&G and one of key things I am trying to implement into company culture in companies I am running today.
2. ) Don’t pick up the phone
I made it a habit not to pick up the phone when my employees called me. I have always called them back though. Do you know what their answer was in 90% of cases when I asked them what’s going on? “nothing, it’s already solved”. First thing that comes to their mind when they encounter problem is to call boss and ask for solution. If you don’t pick up, they need to think and solve the problem. And they will.
When I wanted my F&A person to get better understanding of numbers she is punching in to our excel sheet I have asked her to prepare monthly report. First we went through all numbers, then we did four versions of report. Now it is up to her to produce report every month. Because she must evaluate the results, find key reasons and give us recommendations it makes her think about it and truly understand our financials.
4.) Don’t give them solutions
When people will come to you with problem don’t give them solutions. Ask them questions instead: “what would you do”; “what do you recommend”; “what do you think is the best option” etc. Make them think. After some time, they will come to you with solution already prepared because they will know you will ask them these questions. And later on they will stop coming.