How Bad Leaders Kill Team Problem-Solving Skills (& How To Fix It)


When it comes to cultivating team problem-solving skills, there are two deadly habits that ineffective leaders practice which have the direct opposite effect.

Like a proverbial boa constrictor, these counter-productive habits initially slow down skill development before suffocating it to death.




As a leader, if you hope to have a team with razor-sharp problem-solving competencies, the first step you need to make is to address how you might intentionally or unintentionally be standing in the way.

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What you’re doing wrong: Spoon-feeding


An open-door policy might contribute to creating a culture of open communication, but it does have its downsides.

You might, for instance, think that the best way to lead your team is to allow them as much free rein as possible. They’re free to come in any time to consult you on any problem at all. 




You then show them how to solve it and explain why your solution works. They leave. You’re happy. They’re happy.

But if you’re being asked to solve every little problem that might crop up during the workday, it stunts their problem-solving skills in the long term and hurts their professional growth.


How to fix it: Start guiding


The solution is straightforward: start guiding their process of inquiry to arrive independently at the solutions they seek.




Some questions to guide them along:

  • Get to the root of it: “What exactly is causing this problem?”
  • Think of solutions: “How can you deal with the problem at its root?”


Encouraging them to find the solutions independently as much as possible before presenting the problem to you. It’s not just going to save your time or give you more privacy. Doing this improves individual morale and self-efficacy and sets a precedent for taking greater initiative at work.


What you’re doing wrong: Micromanaging


Let’s be honest. Maybe your people aren’t the problem; you are. You can’t stop micromanaging.

The biggest push factor that determines why leaders micromanage is one that’s familiar to us all: fear. They fear being irrelevant and being replaced by the new talents. 




The reality is that micromanaging only succeeds in suffocating your employees and alienating you. Crucially, it sucks the enthusiasm right out of the office by removing ownership from a particular task.

If people are always being told exactly how to do their jobs to the T, with little room for variation or flexibility, it really won’t feel like their job anymore as it will a job they just need to hold down until a better one comes along.




So when problems occur, they just wait for the boss to show up to tell them what to do.


How to fix it: Cultivate a sense of ownership


First of all, stop trying to just show that you’re relevant: make yourself relevant and indispensable by value-adding to your organisation in ways unique to you.

Additionally, ensure that your people know that they’re in charge of executing their particular responsibilities from start to finish, including dealing with and solving any problems encountered along the way.




Look at this way: “managing” carries a sense of forcefully exerting one’s will against some kind of resistance. In this case, your employees’ resistance at being bossed around all day long. “Owning”, on the other hand, implies a much more comprehensive and intrinsic source of motivation. 

When people truly feel like they can leave a mark by putting out an end product with their name on it, they’re naturally motivated to perform to the best of their abilities and face any problems along the way with resilience and resourcefulness.





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