It´s so easy to blame.
Blame others. Blame the weather. Blame a system. Blame, blame, blame.
When I was an employee at one of the small businesses I was working for, I remember that every time someone had a problem or something came up, it was someone else´s fault. Or it was something from which we had no control over.
I soon began to see that I did the same too. It was so easy to find excuses.
- If my work was not finished it was because my colleague had not delivered the first part that I needed in order for me to complete my part of the job.
- If someone arrived late, it was because of the traffic.
- If we didn´t have all the information to fill in a report, it was because a client had not provided it.
- If we couldn´t print, it was because the printer was out of order or had run out of ink.
Although the situations that were going on were true (sure, you can arrive late because of traffic!) the attitudes weren´t helping the business or even each of us.
With every excuse, we were using our ability to search for an escape when we could have used our ability to grow our problem-solving skills.
But then, we didn´t even notice that those obstacles could be a way of enhancing our way of thinking.
Our common ground was to find excuses for the dysfunctional day we were having. Period.
A Simple Recipe
Fast forward a few years and I find myself at a different business, again, as an employee.
During one of the first meetings with my supervisor, he casually mentioned:
“Oh, by the way, I don´t like when I am thrown problems at.
If you have a problem that you are not being able to solve or have consulted with a colleague and there are still doubts and you don´t know what you should do, please bring at least one possible solution you have thought about.
Otherwise, don´t bother coming in”.
In the months that followed, problems were endless but I followed the rule of trying to solve things by myself, or by talking to my colleagues. We would have different ideas or levels of experience that made us able to figure out the situations in front of us.
We would have different ideas or levels of experience that made us able to figure out the situations in front of us.
When we were in doubt or we truly did not know what to do, we knew that we had to do some research, look at the possible solutions. We started to ask ourselves how the solutions would impact the business or other people involved and all of these before asking our supervisor for any advice. Or else, he would send us back to our desk to continue thinking about the issue we had in front of us.
Looking for a solution was time-consuming.
Sometimes I would do a lot of research that ended up in nothing I could use to sort out a difficulty I was dealing with, sometimes things were solved in just 10 minutes because a colleague would have gone through a similar situation and I could use that experience for the problem I was handling.
The good side was that, in time, this practice got embedded in me, allowed me to grow my analysis capability and be a true owner of my work.
I owned my job and the tasks involved. That made me feel proud of what I was doing.
When you are a small business owner you are a problem solver
When I transitioned to being a small business owner, the problem-solving practice was handy because there were a lot of issues to sort out.
Most of the time, I didn´t have who to ask for advice and finding excuses wasn´t even an option because I was looking to move the business forward.
However, last year, while doing a coaching session to one of my clients, he casually mentioned that he was full of problems.
“What kind of problems exactly? I know we usually have so many things going on that there is not one day when everything goes smooth!”, I said
“Well, you know, I am having some issues with my employees,” said my client ” They are throwing problems at me. They are not solving their work and I already have a lot of stuff to deal with”
That reminded me of the time that supervisor had said to bring at least one solution.
¨Make them think”, I said.
” You can decrease the amount of problems that reach you by telling them to bring a solution. Next time, when someone comes up with a problem, tell them to bring at least ONE solution they have thought about”.
Why is this simple action so important and how you can use it right now?
At first sight, you may be decreasing the problems you receive from your employees, but the simple action of encouraging people to think goes far beyond.
- You will help people develop their problem-solving skills
- You will teach accountability
- You won´t need to do a constant monitoring of every single problem that comes up
- You will encourage teamwork
Applying this is very simple, even when you have an entire workplace (or just one employee) that is not used solve problems. Next time you have an employee approaching you with a problem, you can:
- Ask the employee what he or she thinks is the best possible solution. You will need to refrain from providing the answer in case you know it! Give some space for thought.
- Tell the employee to think at least about a possible solution next time he or she has an issue that is difficult to solve so that you can in so that you can solve the problem together
If you just tell what to do, you will be doing the opposite, forcing an instruction and having even more work for you to do.
But if people become part of the solution, they will be more committed to their work.