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5 Tips for Encouraging Problem Solving

Published on 03 Mar 2018

Problem solving is a skill we teach our children. We want them to think for themselves, work through the process and find a solution. As a manager these are skills we often have to re-train our staff in, otherwise we are constantly bombarded with issues, no suggestion of a solution and with the expectation that we just fix it. This is time consuming, frustrating and tiring. But how we manage this makes all the difference to the team - and our sanity!

1. Are we to blame? Have we inadvertently fostered a culture of being too accessible, being too helpful and our staff are now too reliant on us. Our job is to lead the team, not have them dump all their issues on our desk and walk away. If this is an issue, we need to change our response or the cycle will never end.

2. Empower your team – you are the manager because of your skills and knowledge. Your team comes to you for this reason. Your job as a leader is to empower your team with similar skills and knowledge. Coach them, offer solutions, and point them in the right direction of resources, policies and procedures. Encourage them and build their confidence - this is what they have often lost.

3. Questioning – when an issue is raised, ask questions and lots of them! Questioning will open up the thought process. Have a cheat sheet of questions for staff to refer to and think about before coming to you, ie How urgent is this issue? Who does is affect? What changes are required (personnel, system, process)? What are the implications of this issue? What solutions do I think are best?

4. Encourage solutions – once your team is empowered with knowledge, full of confidence and thinking for themselves, encourage them to come to you with solutions. Work through the solutions, don’t dismiss their suggestions without providing reasons why, support them and provide constructive feedback if their solution is lacking information or not completely thought through.

5. Have their backs – the quickest way to undo all the hard work and for your team to lose confidence in themselves and you as a manager is if they don’t feel like you have their backs. We don’t mean them making business altering decisions without your knowledge with no ramifications, but if they find a solution and implement it independently and it doesn’t work but doesn’t affect anything greatly you need to have their back and support them through.

We all want a team that will bring us solutions not problems. However, we need to work hard, and sometimes for a long time for this to happen – stick with it as it should be worth it in the end.

Are you wondering why we have a picture of Albert Einstein? Well thank you for asking, it is because the following quote (one of our favourites) is attributed to him:

"Stay away from negative people, they have a problem for every solution."