Years ago, I was speaking to a young man who had about a dozen people reporting to him. He was new to his position and was seeking some advice. He had great people skills, was a very good presenter but had very little management experience. In his new capacity, he was quickly getting inundated with staff continuously looking for solutions to problems. The problems ranged from tactical to strategic to intra personnel issues. He was so bogged down with this that he was falling behind in some of his other responsibilities and it was starting to have a negative impact on his attitude. If you are or have been a manager, this may sound familiar to you.
So what’s a good strategy here? Let’s look at it from the manager’s and the employee’s points of view.
From a manager’s perspective, empower your people to bring solutions.
The first step is each time an employee or teammate comes to you with a problem, before accepting to seek out a solution, calmly ask them if they have any ideas of their own on how to address the problem. If they don’t, tell them you will think about how to solve the problem but that you would really appreciate any ideas they may have and encourage them to get back to you with their thoughts. Personally, with new staff, I prefer to do this in conversation rather than by e-mail. As well, if appropriate, I make the time to coach them a bit on how to problem solve.
Many employees do not feel they can do this. That’s where the empowerment part comes in. When you ask them for their input, and you encourage them to discuss their thoughts and ideas with you, you are motivating them to think for themselves and empowering them to come up with their own solutions. Not all of their solutions will be practical, but then again, neither will all of yours. By coaching them you engage in some mentorship which can only serve to improve their skill set and make them a more rounded member of your team. You build trust and mutual respect. Besides, collective thinking and/or collaborative problem solving can lead to some very good solutions.
Not all problems will be solvable this way. As a manager, I have always tried to hire people with a great attitude who will carry out their business professionally and always with an entrepreneurial mindset. That works great when I get to hire the team. When you inherit a team, often, much coaching needs to be done.
From an employee’s perspective, bring solutions!
Instead of: “Hey Gil, we have a customer who is not that happy with our delivery times lately. If we don’t solve the problem we could lose them! What are we going to do?”
Try: “Hey Gil, we have a customer who is not that happy with our delivery times lately. I took the initiative to speak with our warehouse manager and it appears that it’s an issue with the shipping company we chose. It turns out that they only deliver twice a week to that part of province. I suggest we use ABC shipping company from now on. There will be a cost increase to do this but it will have a minimal impact on our bottom line and we’ll have a much happier customer. I just need your approval to proceed.”
The last example is a true story from my experience. I was a few weeks into a new job. The rep that did this clearly demonstrated initiative and problem solving capabilities. He spoke to the warehouse and spoke to three different shipping companies. He analyzed the information and drew his own conclusions. He never once pointed fingers, made sure to tell me how helpful our warehouse had been and pointed out that it was a decision based on a shipping strategy that was three years old (long before my time) that probably needed to be re-visited. We had two other clients suffering from the same issue and his solution solved their problems as well. Needless to say, I was impressed with this individual and very grateful for his help.
In closing, I want to share one other thing that happened to me as an employee many years ago. A co-worker was grumbling about some problems that no one was solving. I asked him if he had any solutions in mind.
He said to me: “Why should I have to bring my boss solutions, isn’t that why he gets paid more?”
I told him that if he really feels that way, he should consider the following saying which was taught to me by my father.
“The successful executive does not have a good attitude because of their position. They have their position, because of their good attitude.”
He was a smart lad and never grumbled to me again!
Image From – The Microsoft Office Clip Art Collection – Modified By Gil
First Posted At synaptici
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