Solution Saturday: Stop Giving So Many Solutions
Do you love offering solutions to other people’s problems? What if it’s ineffective, even dangerous?
Don’t solve problems FOR people:
Solving problems for people invites dependency. The more times you solve someone’s problem, the more quickly they will come to you next in the future.
Anyone who says, “Just tell me what to do,” will blame you if it doesn’t work. “I just did what you told me!”
Offering solutions to someone’s problem may invite judgement. How many times have you offered a brilliant solution only to hear an off handed, “That won’t work.”?
If you aren’t careful, you end up in a conversation designed to defend yourself and prove someone wrong.
Solution-giving is easy until you do the hard listening.
It helps to understand problems before offering solutions.
Quick answers from you make others feel you don’t get it.
When was the last time you listened to understand?
10 questions to ask before solving someone’s problems:
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- What’s important to you about that?
- If you succeed what will be true for you? Others?
- What are your concerns?
- What have you tried?
- What happened to cause this problem?
- How long has this problem been nagging you?
- How much of this problem concerns trying to control others?
- How much of this situation is within your control? In other’s control?
- How have you addressed similar problems in the past?
What if questions invite engagement and statements invite judgement?
3 questions to ask about the person:
Help people address problems from a position of strength.
Don’t project your strengths on others.
- When are you at your best?
- What are your strengths?
- What energizes you?
When to solve someone’s problem:
- The need for quick results outweighs the need for development.
- Time is short and you know the answer.
- You have expertise they can’t attain in a timely manner.
- Recipients are eager learners, rather than shirkers.
Generate three possible solutions WITH them and invite THEM to choose the one to execute.
What suggestions do you have about solving people’s problems?
When do you want someone else to solve your problems?
(Yes, I think it’s ironic to write about offering solutions about not offering solutions.)
*I suspend my 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.
Solving problems is one of life’s challenges, so if you experience a problem and solved it yourself, then that’s your success, for that instance, if other people solve it’s their expertise that helped you, so thank them.
If we challenge others to find a solution, they can learn, if we give away the solutions, they become dependent on others, instead of controlling themselves.
Listen and perhaps offer options, yet let them come up with the answer! Encourage others to take the challenge, they soon will fly solo!
This is what we as people managers do to try to do to be great and bring about greatness in others and our organizations.
(assuming you don’t understand what the other “means” to say, and getting them to rephrase it)
gets the Other to (more consciously) review the implied (subconscious) assumptions underlying the issue,
and goes most of the distance of getting them to “resolve” their own “problem.”
If they get impatient or hostile to your “ignorance,” then that is a flag/indicator that they are too lazy (shirking)
and/or looking to delegate (evade) their own accountability/responsibility for their own thinking and/or actions.
IMHE, top level executives are far more likely to demand/expect quick answers from subordinates than any other class (except possibly spouses).
In My Humble Experience.
The other big flag is if someone brings you a problem description w/o a proposed, well considered solution (a bad practice in any case);
It’s a lot easier (for both parties) to discuss the assumptions underlying a future solution and affirm the effort (without either party getting overly defensive or disengaging) than it is to start with past assumptions (which led to the problem in the first place).
After all, you do want to help; you just don’t (or shouldn’t) want to do it all yourself. And you do want people to communicate and anticipate potentially negative outcomes so that they can be addressed before they become real and large.
The best conversations of this type end up with the bringer of the problem saying what they intend to do at what point, and finalized by them in some form of the question, “Any objections?”
Dan, I think it’s my age but your tagline keeps triggering a line from the classic series The Prisoner “Questions are a burden, answers are a prison for oneself”.
Anyway, When do I want someone else to solve my problems? When it’s quicker, simpler and more cost-effective for them to do it and free me up to solve their problems. If you have specialists you can call on, call on them. Otherwise why have them?
Do the hard listening. I love it. Hey Dan, at the risk of looking dumb, here’s a quick question. When you said “10 questions to ask before solving someone’s problem”, do you literally mean ask all of them? Or use it more as a frame of reference?
This immediately made me think about the short film “It’s not about the nail” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg).
People ofttimes so quickly jump in to help and find solutions for problems. Better first offer empathy, and only then ask questions. Never offer solutions because then you are the owner of that solution for them.