“Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds.” – Norman Vincent Peale (1898 – 1993), American Author.
Recently a client was talking about a ‘pet hate’ which may resonate with many of you.
He finds it frustrating when a team member approaches him with a problem, but does not offer any potential solutions, or alternatives for action.
Although it may appear quicker and easier for you to fix the problem yourself, this is rarely the best approach in the long run.
Not only does it add to your own work load to have to solve their problems, it also encourages a lack of ownership of both the problem and subsequent solution. The unintended consequence of this is that it can be demotivating for your direct report, does not develop their skills and fosters micromanagement on your behalf.
A problem faced by one of your direct reports is a great opportunity for a mini coaching session. Just five minutes of dedicated, uninterrupted attention by you both, is often all you need.
The question is, how do we encourage staff to show initiative when they are facing a problem?
Here are five ways to ensure solution strategies from your team:
1. Refrain from solving the problem straight away (no matter how tempting if you know the answer). Ask what their recommended action is, and if they offer no solution, suggest they go away and think through some alternatives (at least two courses of action) and come back to you with them.
At this point it’s important to let them know their answers do not have to be ‘right’, particularly if they are just learning in this area.
2. Ask questions which evoke considered thought. For example, “what is the desired outcome we/you are looking for in this situation?” Or, “What are the current obstacles?”
3. Be upfront with all your team about your expectations when they bring you a problem or issue – both individually and as a team. Make sure they know what your expectations are before problems arise i.e. what you want to see from them, and what the benefits of this approach are. Be consistent in your response.
4. Refer to the GROW model. This is an effective yet simple way of solving problems to achieve goals, which can not only be used in the workplace, but also in everyday life.
The following diagram demonstrates how the GROW model works, and it can be useful to refer to this with your team member, and then talk about each stage.
5. Be sincere. Sometimes actively listening, showing empathy and understanding, can be enough to resolve the problem. The solution itself may in fact be the process of sharing the issue, which may dispel the need for any subsequent ‘action’. Seek clarity from them as to whether this is all they want.
I strongly believe that problems can often be the catalyst for new ideas, and with some encouragement, you can inspire your team to come up with creative and strategic solutions, which develop them personally and help the business achieve its objectives at the same time.