How much time per week do you spend answering questions at work?
I’ve recently heard from three different clients who were struggling with the same challenge related to delegating – answering too many questions throughout their day (and as a result, having less time to accomplish important tasks).
Let me set the stage. All 3 business owners:
- Love what they do and are worn down and tired
- Work over 12 hours each weekday
- Typically work at least one full day on the weekend
- Have a couple of employees who are skilled and experienced
- Spend a ton of time each day answering questions
Once they can spend less time answering questions, they’ll have more time to complete their work and consequently reduce their work hours.
However, how do you reduce the number of questions you answer each day?
One of my favorite strategies is “3 Before Me”. Before an employee can come to you with a question, they need to try to find the answer using 3 other sources of information.
All three of these business owners were using the “3 Before Me” strategy and it wasn’t working. Keep reading to discover each business owner’s unique challenge and the solution that helped them fix it!
Business Owner #1 – Exhausted Andy
CHALLENGE: The “3 Before Me” strategy broke down right at the beginning. The employees had NO IDEA what other sources to use to find information, so they would ask 1 co-worker for help, and then go immediately to Andy.
SOLUTION: As a group, they identified different locations to find info
- Google – you’d be amazed at what you can find on Google 🙂
- Other team members – and specifically, what area of expertise each team member has
- SOPs – this company had a pretty expansive list of Standard Operating Procedures that was frequently ignored
- Help Desks – they had a number of industry-specific subscriptions that came with a help desk feature.
Co-creating a checklist of possible locations to check for help has reduced the number of questions by 50% so far – and I anticipate that number will increase as the employees get used to accessing these sources.
Business Owner #2 – Tired-out Tanya
CHALLENGE: Tanya broke the “3 Before Me” strategy. One of the strategies the employees used was to post questions in their “help channel” on Slack for other team members to answer.
- Tanya monitored this channel, and as soon as a question sat unanswered for a couple of minutes, she answered it.
- She was feeling guilty. She had that knowledge, the employee was struggling, and she swooped in to help.
- The more Tanya answered the questions, the less the other employees answered, and the more questions she needed to answer. (It’s a vicious cycle!)
SOLUTION: At the next team meeting, Tanya apologized to her team. She realized that by swooping in to “save the day” she was really saying, “the team isn’t smart enough, or good enough to solve this problem.” In fact, she was hurting morale with her micromanaging. (No love here!!) She agreed to stay out of the “help channel” and they agreed to reach out to her directly if they really couldn’t solve it on their own.
Staying out of the “help channel” has allowed Tanya to stop working 2 hours earlier each day last week – but knowing when to “stay out” and when to “jump in” can be tricky!
Business Owner #3 – Hustling Hank
CHALLENGE: Hank didn’t think he could use the “3 Before Me” strategy because “he was the only one that had the knowledge”. As a result, he not only had more questions from his team to answer, but he also had more work to do because he didn’t feel confident passing/know the best way to pass off tasks to his team.
SOLUTION: I hear this all the time from business owners. They are positive that they are the only ones who can do certain tasks. And, this is typically true to an extent. There are some things in your business that only you can do!
- Long-term – you want a plan to transfer that knowledge and increase the skill set of employees so that you are not the bottleneck in your business.
- However, short term, let’s make sure this is actually a fact.
- Make a list of tasks that only you can do
- With each task, identify the skills and/or knowledge needed to complete the task
- Examine the skill set and knowledge of each team member & resource available
- Match each task you’re able to delegate with the team member who is best equipped to handle it.
Hank was then able to share a list of topics that he would be willing to answer questions on and encourage his team to use “3 Before Me”. The number of questions he is now answering has been significantly reduced.
Are you spending too much time answering questions at work? What strategy do you need to reduce the number of questions you’re answering every day (hint: have you tried “3 Before Me”)?
Getting bogged down by too many questions can be discouraging, but it doesn’t have to be! If you’d like some help, schedule a complimentary discovery session here!