Solution Saturday: Stress Free Problem-Solving
Too much problem-solving is a problem. Dis-empowered employees want you to solve their problems for them.
Successful leaders help others solve problems.
(This post originates with a problem-centric-email I received. It only took 30 minutes on the phone for her to find a path forward.)
12 Steps to Stress free problem solving:
#1. Choose compassion, not solution. Solving problems for others is stressful and perhaps a little arrogant. Begin problem-solving conversations with an open heart toward people. Focus on them – help them focus on the problem.
Every time you solve problems others could solve, you weaken the problem-solving power of your team.
#2. Determine if the problem is one only you should solve. Own it if it’s yours.
#3. Give the monkey back. People walk into your office with a monkey they want you to own. Every problem you own – that isn’t yours – limits your ability to lead.
#4. Set your solution aside. Solutions you provide invite dependency. It might be good for your ego, but it doesn’t strengthen organizational capacity.
#5. Relax. You aren’t going to solve their problem, they are.
#6. Create small buckets. Divide big problems into small buckets. On the call, she divided her problems into a “personal/relationship bucket” and an “organizational/performance bucket.”
#7. Choose a bucket. I asked which issues were most pressing. She chose personal/relationship.
#8. Encourage people to focus on what they want. Problem-centric leaders sink into what they don’t want.
#9. Encourage positive language. “How might you shift what you just said from negative to positive?”
#10. Focus on their behaviors, not the behavior of others. They can’t control others.
#11. Explore small changes. Aim low to reach high.
#12. Try something.
She identified a pressing issue and crafted a behavior-based solution in 30 minutes. It wasn’t perfect. It was progress.
How might leaders best help others solve their own problems.
at one time when I was the head of program delivery for a large telco engineering team, one of my sons spent the day with me in the office. on the way home I asked him “what did you think of today?”. he said “is today typical of most of your days” to which I said “pretty much. why”.
he said “all I saw, all day long, was people coming to you with their problems, expecting you to solve them”.
It was definitely a trap that I had fallen into as a manager, and very hard to dig yourself out of that hole. it’s a “teach a person to fish” kind of situation, and starting to help people help themselves initially leaves them feeling “short changed” by the discussion.
i learned that if someone walks into my office with a problem, there has to be a good chance that they needed to walk out of the office still with ownership of the problem, but with some level of assistance from me. Otherwise my office became a “problem storage unit” and I was never going to be able to fix all of them before one or more blew up.
Challenge yourself don’t rely on others! Your life’s journey will be much more to your satisfaction if you accept life’s challenges and find your way! It doesn’t hurt to consult peers for guidance, but remember it’s your problem to solve. Dependency on others makes us weak and allows complacency to develop! Challenge yourself as well as your team, you’ ll find solutions more fulfilling for all!
So many good points in this post. The of my favorites are, “Successful leaders HELP others solve problems,” and “Every time you solve problems others could solve, you weaken the problem-solving power of your team.” I see this as a big challenge for people that have typically been action-oriented before moving into leadership roles. From my own experience, I can be impatient and rather than helping the team member solve the problem, I will jump in and solve it for them.
This is even a challenge at home with family. When presented with a problem by my wife or kids, my inclination is to jump in a fix it. My wife will even tell me, “Just listen… I don’t want you to fix it.”
What this does is disempower people. As you noted so well above, we actually weaken the ability of our teams to grow and learn, and ultimately improve the performance of the team. We believe that we are serving the best interests of the team, when we are actually hurting them.
This topic also deals with mindset. I am of the mindset that nobody can do it better than me – but I learned through time and experience that I need to let others jump in and learn and grow through their own experience and they will develop because of those opportunities. And, guess what, sometimes others can do it better than me. It is difficult at first to relinquish control but I also learned that I developed better as a leader by doing so. Good post!
Very interesting thought process….and can apply to many situations, not just leaders. Thank you.
I can always offer my experience – then I’m not telling them what to do – or robbing them of a growth opportunity.