If you're the owner of an tree service company or working as a team leader of a tree crew then you may sometimes feel that position as a leader takes up too much of your time, never leaving you enough hours in the day to address your own work. It might seem you are always helping your team solve problems and address issues rather than fulfilling your own duties and responsibilities. As the team leader of your tree care team, you have to take on the responsibility of helping your crew in every possible way in every unique situation, as only you are positioned to help the team like no one else can. Here are some tips to motivate your tree crew to solve problems for themselves.
There can be many signs that depict a weak spot or knowledge gap in your team but one sure fire sign is when you ask questions like, what's the next step? and your team's only response is blank stares or I don't know's. For crew leaders, there are two ways to approach this. Some would get upset while others would offer a solution or guidance right away. The problem comes when you offer to do either of them. They are both temporary solutions because neither eliminates the current issue: it does not create more time for your job or minimize your responsibility towards the crew. If you get upset, your team / crew members won't feel comfortable with you and may begin to drag their feet and resent you instead of finding a solution. If you do decide to jump in and assist them to solve the current issue by providing the solution, the work continues again but poses a greater danger in the future. They will be reluctant to find a solution by themselves in the near future knowing you will save them the next time they get compromised or stuck on a particular task.
So how do you get your team to problem solve on their own and think for themselves when problems arise? The best way to bring back your team's ability to solve issues and problems is by asking them frequent and sound questions. This opens their mind and they will be able to think critically to solve dilemmas without you. Plus it may free some of your time to attend to your own matters. When you pose one or two healthy questions, it will help a great deal in improving performance and critical thinking. Some questions to avoid are:
- Why did you do that?
- What were you thinking?
- Who told you to do that?
- Who screwed up?
- What is wrong with you?
All the above questions will hurt an individual and mess with the rapport of the team. Better questions to pose to individuals or team members are:
- What's your main goal?
- What else did you try after realizing that way didn't work?
- What would you do next time to avoid this?
- What did you learn?
- How would you approach this differently next time?
These are questions that allows an individual to develop an answer on their own without any pressure. Since most complex projects might have more than one solution or approach to the problem these questions allow them to provide an answer in which there is no wrong answer. The worst answer you could get is "I don't know". An answer like this can mean multiple things including: they're uncertain about their idea in mind, they're unwilling to commit before they know your position and opinion, they haven't thought about it at all or maybe they're just scared and embarrassed to get it wrong.
However, this does not mean they do not have a clue or idea. When you get such a dreaded answer, don't be tempted to provide a solution but engage in a conversation by asking a friendly question like what else might you have done if you had to? As the leader, you must find a better way to continue the dialogue. Make the team members feel comfortable and engage their thinking process. This will work like magic as they will try to think and appreciate the motivation you pose.
When you are more conscious of the the questions you ask you will realize a tremendous change in the team's attitude. A member who was normally agitated and challenged will begin to open up and start sharing ideas, brainstorming and cooperating as if they were not facing any problems. It frees up anxiety and the fears that the "I don't know" person might be feeling. They feel comfortable as they now understand that they don't need your approval and you won't judge their idea of thinking.
Having a cohesive unit means they will work together to reveal clues to to the problems and try to solve them. They feel comfortable opening up and working as a team because the work tension has been released. Studies show that human brains work better when they're free from any emotional barriers. So if you engage your team with friendly conversations rather than reciting the riot act to them your team will engage, interact and look to improve performance and productivity. Plus they'll only need to bring you in on very serious matters and decisions. This increases the team's confidence and productivity while saving you the time to address your personal responsibilities.