As a leader, people come to you with problems weekly, daily and in some unfortunate cases hourly. Is this your fault, their fault or the system’s? Wouldn’t it be better if the person with the problem delivered a solution or at least a potential solution at the same time?
Fortunately, you can have some control over this problem parade. You just need to role model and insist that your teams adopt the “Don’t Bring the Problem without a Solution” philosophy.
I was recently hired a consultant on a website project and like most projects things weren’t always turning out as expected. I am sure there were many minor hiccups I didn’t hear about but when there was a fairly major problem that could potentially cost me more than originally anticipated, the consultant came to me to address the issue.
As the conversation started out, I was becoming more frustrated picturing a further delay and increased cost of the project, or worst a problem he couldn’t fix. As he continued with his explanation, I became pleasantly surprised that after he finished telling me about the problem, he went into not only one but two potential solutions. This response left me going from frustrated and disappointed to impressed and optimistic.
How Can You Get Your Team To Take On The “Don’t Bring The Problem Without A Solution” Approach?
It starts with you! Like most things in leadership, if you want your people to adopt or maintain a behavior, they need to see you role modeling it consistently. As a leader, you are probably coming up with solutions to problems all the time but no one notices. Sometimes, you may actually need to verbalize what you are doing for them to realize you have come up with a solution to the problem. It may even come across as a ‘humble brag’ but that’s ok if they get the point and start adopting the behavior you would like.
To instill this approach, it is also critical that you stop solving all the problems that come your way from your team. A few years ago, I worked with a CEO of a small engineering company who really wanted his top-level engineers to start making high level decisions. He expressed this desire to his team but they still kept coming to him with problems he knew they were capable of finding solutions to. He asked me what he could do. My answer was “well, stop solving their problems for them”.
You see, even though he wanted them to be solving problems, every time they would come to him, he could not resist getting involved and help solve the problem for them.
Just think about one of the last problems someone presented to you. Can you imagine the feeling you would have if when they finished presenting the problem, they follow up by presenting a solution or two? How good would that make you feel?
Action: Give it a try! This week, when you encounter a problem on a task someone is relying on, work hard to come up with solutions before even discussing the problem with them. You could even test this out with your spouse at home.
Until next week…
Shawn Stratton is an international leadership and team building consultant, professional speaker, bestselling author, Ironman competitor, and expedition guide.
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