Are you an answer dispenser? Many leaders accidentally find themselves doing other people’s jobs – and not increasing the capabilities of their teams. While trying to be helpful, you are preventing others from having full autonomy and accountability for their job – and not having enough time to do your own job.

In the podcast this week, Brad Giles and Kevin Lawrence discuss a trap that many leaders fall into: unintentionally doing other people’s jobs. If you’re answering too many questions as a leader, you hold back the growth of your team and reduce operational efficiency.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Please note that this episode was transcribed using an AI application and may not be 100% grammatically correct – but it will still allow you to scan the episode for key content.

Kevin Lawrence  00:13

Welcome to the Growth Whisperers podcast where everything we talk about is building enduring, great companies. Ideas, tips, tricks, techniques, to help people live up to that aspiration of building an amazing organization. I’m Kevin Lawrence. And as always, I’m here with Brad Giles, my co host partner. Alright, well, let’s jump in the word of the day. What’s your word of the day?

Brad Giles  01:11

Look, I’ve said it before. But it’s accountability. Gee, it’s such an issue that we just deal with, from what feels like 360 degrees in all its forms on such a regular basis. So it’s accountability. That is holding people accountable, establishing a system of accountability, and a framework and getting people comfortable in that. What’s yours?

Kevin Lawrence  01:40

I love how our thoughts are on different tracks. Mine was freedom. Which is almost the opposite of accountability, in some cases, not necessarily, but just freedom to and grateful for the freedom to be able to do the things that we want to be able to create the things that we want to be able to work with the people that we want, and how freedom is obviously important to many of us. But I find that you know, I have the greatest freedom when I’m working with the best teams.

Brad Giles  02:12

And I’ve never stitched before, this is always your thing. But I know, we have a person that we both know who has a saying which is routine will set you free. And so maybe its accountability will set you free. Maybe the freedom that you seek comes from accountability.

Kevin Lawrence  02:33

Whoa, and that would weave beautifully into today’s topic, Brad. What are we talking about today? Cuz that’s, that’s a nice little transition.

Brad Giles  02:46

Today, we’re talking about a concept that I outlined in my book, which is other people’s jobs. Right? So today’s episode is asking the question, Are you unintentionally doing other people’s jobs. Because if you are, it could be a problem.

Kevin Lawrence  03:11

As well for you and for them. And thing is, often when people start doing other people’s jobs, their intent is good. Like it’s to either help the person or make sure the job gets done for the customer. It’s a noble intent often, um, but we won’t really get today is that often when your intent is to be helpful, you can also be hurtful. One, because when you do someone else’s job, you rob them of the accountability, often, you can rob them of the learning experiences, you can law, rob them of the pain that comes from not doing a good job or failing, and, and almost insulate people from their own issues. That’s not always the case. But it can be but your intent is, it’s beautiful. I know. And you’re wanting to do the best, but we’re hoping to understand is that when you’re doing other people’s jobs that you shouldn’t be doing.

Brad Giles  04:07

So what we would encourage as best practice is that each role in the organization, any role has a sandbox and that Sandbox has outputs such as KPIs, or the execution of priorities, or whatever it might be. And all of the responsibilities and accountabilities that live within that sandbox are owned by the person in that role. And so we don’t want to be stepping into that sandbox and playing with that person’s toys. We want them to get us to your point, the freedom to succeed in that sandbox because when you are fully accountable, and you have that freedom, that’s when magic happens.

Kevin Lawrence  04:54

Yeah, and a lot of this starts from the perspective of the manager, right? And think of this as the manager getting over involved in their teams work. But the idea is when you remember that as a manager, your job is, is to support them and get their job done. But it is their job. Unfortunately, some of these people, we can be the guilty party, but some of these people are masters and have you think it’s your job, or they’re their masters of delegating the accountability back up to you. Right, or especially when there’s risk involved, and many of them are very capable. But if you’re a good enough sucker that they can get you to do their work. And they don’t have to do it, especially if it’s the hard part, or the risky part. You know, many of them, though, are I’ve mastered that in their life, they just make it somebody else’s issue, and namely, yours. And it’s stuff you got to watch out for. And if you’re a supportive person, you can, you can get taken advantage of, and unfortunately, they’re the ones getting ripped off because they’re not stretching their own capabilities.

Brad Giles  06:00

And many times we set these traps ourselves because we hire someone, okay, and we set them up, and maybe we have on boarded them, maybe not, but this person has started, and then we say to them, the critical words, Kevin, if you’ve got any issues, just come and see me if you didn’t questions, just come and see me. Yeah. Because the end that we don’t say it, and I’ll answer those questions. Okay. And what that does is it sets in motion a process that gently, slowly turns a switch in their mind that stops them thinking for themselves in a literal sense, okay. And instead of them trying to solve problems, if every single time from that point onwards, they come to us, and we answer the questions. It’s like, we train them to come to us.

Kevin Lawrence  06:57

Train them to be stupid, yeah, train them to not use the brain, you train them to not grow. And it’s almost like if you had children, and every time they went out, you tied their shoes for them. Well, next thing, you know, your 15-year-old kid is coming you to get their shoes tied. Now, we’re smarter than that as parents, I hope but we often do that with our people, the same thing helpful becomes hurtful because we hold them back. And they think they’re winning because they don’t have to do it. But again, they’re stunting their own growth. So like you brought, I also wrote about this, there’s a book chapter I book called chief stop being a chief problem solver. Basically, if you’re in an answer dispenser, you’ve got a problem. Because if you’re the answer dispenser, you’re doing the thinking, and they’re not. And so, I’ve worked with a professional services firm, and you know, they’re in the answer business. Right? And, and they’re very, very successful. But they were they’ve trained and they have a culture of, anytime someone comes with a question, they come with having done some research and have a couple of different options and a recommendation. So they’ve trained everyone to try and do the thinking, versus coming in to get an answer. That’s organizational discipline. Now, the thing is, why are so many of us answer dispensers, I can be guilty of it sometimes, too.

Brad Giles  08:27

Because it’s easier. I’ll just solve the problem.

Kevin Lawrence  08:32

Our ego loves it. It is so self-validating. Let me show you how smart I am I have the answer. Well, of course, you have the answer. You’ve been doing the job for 20 years, you should have the answer to almost every question of operational question at least. But your job is to train them to be more capable and independent. So every time you’re answering those questions, you’re not doing your job of making that person more capable and independent. Because of course, you know the answer. And your ego loves to reinforce the fact that you know the answer. It’s just not good for anybody. Because when you’re busy answering questions all the time to the people around you don’t get any smarter. And three, as the business grows, you’ve got a weak team, and more and more pressure on your shoulders. It’s just and we’re not No, I don’t want to sound judge you, we all slip into it. It’s just such a bad habit to get into.

Brad Giles  09:28

When I was a CEO of my own business, I went through this epiphany for want of a better word. And I remember I would come back to the office and walk in and there’d be about 20 people would put their eyes their head over the workstation and think oh he’s back I can go and ask him a question. And that’s not a really sustainable position to be in. And I can only suspect that some of our leaders who are listening to this podcast have experienced the same thing. And I, number one, I made it really clear, who do you report to? If you’re three layers away from me, don’t be coming to me and asking for questions, unless it’s to do with, I don’t know, my car or my house or something like that. Yes. So it made that really, really clear. But then the people who reported to me, I explained to them, we’re going to work through every weekly meeting. And I’m only going to ask questions, okay, you’re going to answer the questions. And what that did remember, when I said when people start, they flip that switch it slowly flip that switch back, where what that meant is that those people, they started to think he’s not going to bloody answer this question anyway.

Kevin Lawrence  10:54

So for example, and all humans can slip into this. But let’s talk about some of the techniques you can use to not do people’s job. And again, there’s getting in there and being over helpful. A lot of it has to do in leadership roles about answering questions and things like that. We’ll share some of them. So one of the techniques, I use this a lot, but it’s like, what do you recommend? Yeah, like, at the end of the day, what’s your recommendation I want? You know, at the end of the day, basically, hey, how about you do a little bit of thinking, and you come here and give me a recommendation? Interestingly, I’ve got an amazing team. Amazing – and people still come up with questions, not that much. Because they know that I don’t really want to answer them. And they’re capable enough to do it themselves. But someone the other day, I had a situation. That was something that’s happened before. And they came and said, Okay, here’s the situation. Here’s what we think we should do. And here is how I think I’m going to handle it. And I just said, sounds good. You got my support. That’s it. It was so well thought through. But they also knew they knew what I was gonna say, Well, what’s your recommendation? How can you solve this? And also, how can we prevent this in the future? Anyways? It’s just it’s very. So basically, what do you recommend and training people to get another habit is one thing, what are some other things that you can do? In the situation, you find yourself stuck in it?

Brad Giles  12:27

Well, as I’ve mentioned, before, you said that just asking questions. So having when you’re interacting with a person who you’ve, you know, trained in that way, think the only way I can deal with them is to have a question mark at the end of a sentence. It’s a little game that you can play. Like, I’d say, Hello. But I could say, How are you doing today? Okay, that’s a question. And you can just make it into. And that’s what I did make it into a game where you can make sure that everything that you’re doing is only asking questions, yep.

Kevin Lawrence  13:10

A little warning, if this isn’t what you’re doing, and you start doing it, all of a sudden, you’ll freak people out. So one of the things we’ve learned is to let your team know, hey, what I’ve realized is, I’m the answer dispenser, you’re not increasing our capability. So here’s how we’re going to change things going forward, just so you know, what’s coming. And and and it’s, it can drive people crazy when you want to answer a question and hear me. It’s not that you never answer a question again. But you know, 70 80%, say that 80% of the time, you’re going to try and get them to do it. Sometimes you’re still gonna answer the damn question. Don’t turn into a robot that only has statements with questions at the end.

Brad Giles  13:52

What do I like to say on that is if they come to you and say, so what we’re going to do is we’re going to get to atoms inside plutonium, and we decided we’re going to smash them together, then that’s probably a good idea to, you know, flip that opinion back having an opinion is exactly.

Kevin Lawrence  14:10

So we’re talking about 80% of the time, you’re still going to answer something. It’s just that generally, if you get, you know, 100 questions in a week, we’re trying to get 80 or 90 of them that they answer themselves, or at least they try to answer themselves versus just the default, you helping out too much and being too helpful or too knowledgeable.

Brad Giles  14:29

Let’s now flip around and think about an A-player. So imagine if you’re an A-player, who is reporting to a CEO who must answer every question, okay, so this is a top performer, someone who’s a superstar in their field and they come into your firm, and you tell them by either directly or indirectly, I’m going to answer every question and there will be no risk and another one another.

Kevin Lawrence  14:58

You’re gonna want nothing. to do with you, they’re gonna be far they are. And it’s interesting. You know, I’ve got very, very strong people on my team. And I was interesting having an interaction with one or the other guys, it was a very successful executive. And he’s one of our amazing, awesome consultants. And, and it was worth and coach. So we’re talking about something and I know with him, my job is to ask a couple questions. He doesn’t need anything from me. And if I, if I get too involved, he’s gonna be like, What are you doing? Yeah. Right, because he has the autonomy and the accountability and the intelligence. Now we’re working on this one project. And I said, okay, at some point, I know you’re going to deliver on this thing, you’ll crush it, we just need to make sure that we’re in sync at probably two points in this project. So okay, so where would the points where you and I review progress and synchronize around where we’re at before we go to the next step, almost like, if you’re building a house, let’s synchronize before we buy the land. And then let’s synchronize on the final drawings, before we get the building permits and order the material, you know, a couple of key checkpoints, but otherwise, and so we just decided on a couple of checkpoints and away we go. Yeah, but he’s not gonna ask me any questions. He’s just gonna go and do it and come with recommendations, he might ask a couple little things. But he doesn’t want to have to come and ask me a bunch of questions. And that’s the key thing, because he’s a super strong a player.

Brad Giles  16:29

And we think that we’re helping them by answering questions. But we, and we think that, you know, it’s too hard to train them to think for themselves in the way that we do things. Look, it’s easier if I just do it myself, or if I just answered this question.

Kevin Lawrence  16:46

But as we’re thinking here, right, it really our job is to ask a bunch of questions. And but not answer a bunch of questions. Yeah, we should be mostly asking. And rarely answering.

Brad Giles  16:59

Yeah, I mean, and that really, really comes back to the old saying that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room.

Kevin Lawrence  17:07

Yeah. Exactly. Awesome. I love this. So the root of everything that we’re talking about is, is that if you’re answering a lot of questions, or being overly helpful, you hold people’s growth back. Yeah. And you’re robbing them of their accountability. And generally, you’re gonna have a lot more pressure on your shoulders. And that pressure is meant to be distributed, not carried by you. So your intent may be beautiful. And think about it with the people that you’re working with? Where are you likely getting involved in doing people’s jobs? Where are you owning some of their accounts that you shouldn’t, and maybe it’s been fine? But you want to transfer more of that to them. And as a leader, our job is to transfer more and more to other people, ideally, the right or the left something for you to think about?

Brad Giles  17:57

Yeah. Any leader of people, your job is to grow the people around you to grow them. And you can’t do that, if you’re answering all of their questions. Don’t do other people’s jobs. Because if and this is the final point, is that if you’re doing other people’s jobs, and all that that entails. And it really loops back to the first point, you’re not doing your job. Exactly, then who’s doing yours? Nobody. And then you’re not focused on the three years and the strategy and all the stuff we spoke about in last week’s episode, and then you wonder why the company might not be scaling at the level that you hoped for exactly.

Brad Giles  18:39

What a very good episode. What a very good chat. Yeah, make sure that you’re doing your job and not other people’s jobs. A good a good principle. Okay, so I think with that, we’re ready to wrap. So this has been the growth whisperers. I’m Brad always joined by my co host, Kevin Lawrence. You can find the YouTube version at YouTube, obviously, by searching the growth whisperers. Kevin has a newsletter that he puts out each week and you can find that at Lawrence and co.com Now I have an interesting newsletter as well that you can find at evolution partners.com that I do. We do hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode, and hopefully we’ll be able to catch up again next week.