Let’s face it — it’s great to be the boss. You’re the one calling the shots, making sure everything stays on course; in the end, the responsibility for your company’s success or failure falls on your shoulders. And you’re fine with that. After all, you’re the boss.

When it comes to being in charge, however, acting as the constant problem-solver can become tiring — and detrimental to the business. When an employee brings you a problem, there are benefits to having built a company culture in which he or she is encouraged to bring a solution as well.

More businesses are adopting policies that direct employees to bring possible solutions to management whenever they present a problem. Considered offhand, this practice makes perfect sense. How often have you had an employee present a problem, and when you ask what he or she thinks should be done, you had the same idea in mind? Nine times out of 10, an employee already knows the answer.

Another consideration involves the size of your business. If your company is smaller with a fairly flat organizational structure, management might not always have the best answers. If you, for example, are the CEO of a tech company, you might be great at handling the business end of things, but technical problems may be outside your realm of expertise. In cases like these, it’s important to have a technician coming up with options and providing their various pros and cons.

There are many benefits to having your employees look inward for solutions, rather than immediately seeking them elsewhere:

  • It helps them learn.
  • It provides a sense of empowerment and reward, particularly when the solution works.
  • It helps them grow and prepares them to move up in the company.
  • It makes them more adept at problem-solving.
  • It saves management time.
  • Employees may think of solutions management could not.
  • It speeds up the implementation of the solution.

While problems can arise for which solutions are apparent, the right answers can sometimes be obscure. There are a number of ways employees can make their troubleshooting processes more efficient:

  • Practice: When employees take the time to brainstorm potential issues and then think up solutions, they get better at it, resulting in fewer instances of them running to the boss for help.
  • Talk it over: Simply discussing a problem with a co-worker or friend can be a great help. Even if the other person doesn’t have the answer, the process of talking it over will trigger the brain’s problem-solving abilities.
  • List: Make a list of all the possible solutions, along with why they would — or wouldn’t — work. There may be an extremely limited number of options, and none may seem appealing on their own. However, seen side by side, you can recognize which is best, even if it’s not pretty.

Having your employees develop their own solutions can be difficult. It can be stressful when no solution is apparent or an employee takes the wrong solution too far. Employees can find themselves discouraged when their ideas fail. And there are certain things management simply needs to know.

On the whole, however, I’ve seen overwhelming benefits. My team has become more productive. They know when to approach me and when not to, thereby saving me — and themselves — a great deal of time. It also goes a long way toward establishing a stronger sense of teamwork.

I may be the boss, but I’m not the only one pointing us in the right direction. And that’s a great feeling.

Nicolas Gremion is the CEO of Free-eBooks, the online source for free e-book downloads, resources, and authors. Gremion is a culturally curious traveler and entrepreneur who lives in Costa Rica with his wife and his dog, Frankie.

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