How to stop being the ‘go to’ person with your team

One of the traps that I see leaders falling into all the time, is becoming the ‘go to person’ with their team.

The person that your team always go to to answer questions, solve problems, make decisions, and sense check things.

Does this sound familiar?

The problem is that being a ‘go to’ person is actually a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, because although you have the illusion that you’re doing the right thing, and you’re helping your team out…you’re actually eating up your day being everything to everyone, and being firmly camped in ‘fire fighting mode’ with no time to do anything you wanted to do from your own list.

You might also be interrupted on your time off, or in the evenings or weekends or holidays – because even though you thought you were being helpful you were inadvertently training your team that this is perfectly OK – and so they keep doing it.

Let me give you an example that’s closer to my home.

As you know I’ve got 4 kids and there came a time in each of their lives when they had to learn to tie their own shoe laces. Now, learning to tie your shoe laces is a pain. It’s slow and it can take a lot of time. And then they get it. Hurray!

But then comes the day when you’re rushing to get out of the door and they’re taking ages to tie their laces and every cell in your body wants to do it for them, right?!

The problem is that once we do – we’re always going to be doing it – because you’ve taught them that you will.

You being the go to person is exactly the same  – by taking on that role, you’re stopping yourself doing other things that you really need to be doing – and stopping them from growing, developing and being more self sufficient at work.

So, how do you stop being the go to person, without just pulling the rug out from your teams feet and just stopping – here are 3 ways that you can gradually help your team be more self sufficient.

Keep a record of what your team are asking you for

This is such an important first step so that you can see if there are any re-curing issues and common problems. If this is the case, it may be that you can start by gathering together all the answers and communicating them to the team so they’re all clued up going forward. You might even want to put a Frequently Asked Question list somewhere that everyone has got access to.

 Stop yourself jumping in

Now, I know you might think that this sounds super easy, but it’s probably not as easy as you think. Especially if you’re busy and you just need something sorting so you can move on  – you’ll be really tempted to just jump in and move on. This is especially the case if you’ve been doing this for a while as you’ll have created a habit – and this habit needs to be changed for you as well as them.

So, instead of jumping straight in ask the person what they think they need to do. You might even ask them to come back in a few minutes with some solutions. Try not to give them the right answer but coach them to find the solution themselves.

This isn’t going to be a quick fix- so you’ll need to keep at it so you can start seeing that change in behaviour.

Recognise the right behaviour

As I said changing behaviour is going to take effort, and there’ll be times when you will feel frustrated and just want to go back to how it was – it was just easier than. But stick with it, it’s definitely a case of short term pain for long term gain.

Even so, you’ll start seeing moments when your team are being self sufficient and much more confident in their abilities. When this happens, recognise it and praise them. Pretty soon, everyone will understand that this is what you expect going forward.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – let me know by leaving a comment.

1 Comment

  1. Nicole

    I can really see what you’re getting at. It’s the work version of learned helplessness. My challenge is that my workplace is also a training facility. Most of the people on my team are trainees , so it’s hard to know how much to be there for their questions and how much to make them fly l their own – training them is my job after all.


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