9. Don’t be the “Answer Machine”

During my first years as a sales manager, salespeople came to me looking for answers to all of their questions multiple times per day. I was always being pulled to help one or another. I thought giving them answers was part of doing my job. Heck, I liked that I had “all the answers”.  Yet after a while, I realized this approach did more harm than good.  I spent all my time answering the same questions time after time after time!

I needed to enable my team to think for themselves and learn the knowledge on their own, or else they’d always be dependent on me.

One of my employees who’s now a good friend (and left the industry) tells a story of when he was working for me.   When he started I told him, “the first time you come to me with a question, I’ll answer it.   The second time I’ll answer the question but remind you that I’ve told you how to resolve it before.  The third time I’m not going to give you the answer and I’m going to tell you to research it yourself.    The first time he got to round #3 and I didn’t help him, he thought I was being a giant jackass (putting it politely).   The thing is…he got the answer he needed and because he did it himself he learned it and took ownership.   He went on to become one of the top sales people at the company and was my replacement as the Sales Leader when I left the firm a few years later.

There are still some situations where a quick answer is necessary, but those should be the exception, not the rule.  Train them right!
In the end, as the business owner/CEO the buck stops with you…literally!

If you’re in need of help, don’t be afraid to ask for it!