More Problems, Please

May 6, 2016 by

“A problem well put is half solved.” – John Dewey

Imagine a day where no emails hit your Inbox, the phone doesn’t ring, no worried looking coworkers approach your desk …. Sounds pretty good, right? Not so much unless you are on vacation on the last place on earth without broadband. (And if anyone knows where that is, please text me the coordinates as I’m looking for vacation ideas; no cold climates need apply.)

It’s a gift to have conundrums brought to your digital or actual door. If someone comes to you for help, they presumably think you have the skills to help solve it, and trust you to help vs. ridicule, belittle, or throw under the proverbial bus.

If people are reluctant to bring you problems, you should be asking yourself why.

  1. Are you approachable? A leader should be willing to listen to any problem, from poor selection of snacks in the vending machine to a large implementation risk being realized in flaming red. Never dismiss or give off a “why are you talking to me about this” vibe. Taking time to listen to the problem doesn’t mean you can’t delegate or share the solution.
  2. Do you use it as a teachable moment? Help the person or group sort through full framing of the issue. What do we know? What don’t we know?  Is there more input that can be gathered? What is the urgency? What are the options? Problems are a learning opportunity.
  3. Do you use it as a leadership moment? The person may have the ability to solve the problem themselves, but don’t feel empowered or enabled to do so. A characteristic of high performing organizations is distributed decision making. If  decisions have to constantly go up to the C-suite, it signals slow time-to-market and low employee engagement.
  4. Do you meet commitments? Don’t tell someone you can solve something unless you are sure you can. It’s OK to say you need time or additional input. It’s not OK to say “I’ll get that brand of chocolate-covered pretzels in the vending machine next week” if you don’t have the faintest clue if that’s possible.
  5. Respect confidentiality – up to a point. If some asks for confidential treatment of the issue, I recommend saying “I appreciate your trust in me, but understand if the issue requires me to bring in additional assistance, I may have to share information.”

“It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.” – Malcolm Forbes

Be glad of problems. They are a compliment and opportunity.

For what it’s worth …

Worth a lot. Read David Bray’s (@fcc_cio) article on Internet of Everything. C-suites and boards who aren’t up on what this means to their business are behind.

Worth a laugh. A raccoon took out the power in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Furry Luddite? (I’m still waiting to hear if the raccoon lived.)

Worth thinking about. One employee unknowingly opened an email with a malware-infected attachment, resulting in a  cyber attack forcing a city-owned utility in Lansing, Michigan, to shut down phones, email systems, and more. Organizations have to worry about all security gaps because hackers only have to find one.

Worthless. There are still places that require typing tests as a determinant of employability. News flash: Leaders don’t care about typing. They care about communication skills. I’ll take 10 wpm of quality vs. 100 wpm of drivel any day.


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