• A professor of psychology and marketing writes in Fast Company that managers should put off answering their teams’ questions.
  • That’s because it teaches employees to be resourceful and to be better leaders.
  • Other managers have tried similar strategies and found them effective.

Over on Fast Company, Art Markman writes that an effective manager will put off answering their direct reports’ questions right away.

Markman, who is a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, says it teaches employees to be resourceful and to hone their leadership skills.

He writes:

“Some day, some of your team members will be sitting in your position fielding the requests that you’re fielding.

“By encouraging them to solve problems on their own before coming to you, you’re developing them into more efficient, high-value workers and reinforcing the fact that you have your own priorities (which they should respect). Likewise, they’ll learn that it’s perfectly acceptable to prioritize their own work as long as they help out their teammates in a timely fashion.”

The article has been trending on LinkedIn, where it’s drawn over 600 comments. Frank Pavone, for example, says he’s experienced this behavior as an employee: “I used to call or text my boss to rectify a problem or situation with no real response. I started to do things on my own and only contact my boss when I had no choice or to make sure certain orders went through. I guess he trusts my [judgment] and lets me lead my own way till I really f— up.”

Attila Gyuris added some more nuance: “The key is ‘balance’…. not too much ignoring and not too much helicoptering either.” Gyruris says it depends on factors like the employee’s experience and self-confidence. “Some need more hovering and more feedback, other[s] not as much.”

Markman’s observations are reminiscent of Dale Carnegie’s in his 1948 book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” One of Carnegie’s interviewees was Leon Shimkin, then a general manager at publishing house Simon and Schuster, which published a series of Carnegie’s books (Shimkin later became the company’s owner).

Shimkin told Carnegie that he’d cut meeting times drastically by insisting that, if an associate wanted to present a problem, they’d first have to submit a memorandum describing the problem’s cause and all potential solutions.

Apparently, associates were able to resolve most problems on their own when they really tried.