How the “Bring a Solution” Rule Backfires

The “bring a solution” rule is leadership’s strategy for dealing with complainers. Don’t bring up a problem without bringing a solution also. Smart leaders ask for two or three options.

butt heads

The “bring a solution” rule means:

  1. Don’t expect others to solve your problems.
  2. Don’t expect me to be responsible for your problems.
  3. Take ownership yourself.


The “bring a solution” rule lets weak leaders off the hook.

Leaders deal with whiners, complainers, and gossips by throwing problems back at the people that bring them up. “That will shut them up.”

Rather than bring up problems, some issues may just go underground.

The “bring a solution” approach may allow issues that should be addressed to fester.


Engage in the problem solving process. Don’t throw problems back in the face of those who bring them up, collaborate.

  1. Define and describe the problem or issue.
  2. Clarify the reason it’s important.
  3. What’s bad about the problem?
  4. What would be happening if the problem didn’t exist? Work toward positive solutions more than solving pain points.
  5. Ask, “What are our options?” Generating a list of options pops the cork on pressure to be right.
  6. Choose an option. Take action.
  7. Evaluate in a few days. What’s working? What needs to be better?

Bonus: Avoid mission creep. Keep problem solving as simple as possible.

Don’t hide behind the “bring a solution” rule. Connect with people who bring up issues by engaging with them. Working to solve issues with people doesn’t mean you’re solving problems for people.

What strategies are you using to deal with whiners, complainers, and gossips?

How can leaders engage in problem solving without taking ownership of every issue?