Like “Yes, Chef!” in the kitchen. Like “Everyone on the starting blocks”, on an athletics track. Likewise, “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” is the recurring expression that echoes in office corridors.
An expression so dear to leaders who, with this statement, try to stimulate the critical spirit of their resources, to limit complaints and – let’s face it – to avoid some annoyance.
But is it really effective to tell a resource in difficulty “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” ? What are the consequences of such an answer?
“Bring me solutions”: the blindfold that inhibits collective thinking
It’s true, some employees often give up at the first difficulty and dump any doubts on the manager, even the smallest.
Not all problems, however, are easy to solve and generalizing, always answering to bring solutions, may not be productive.
In the first place because it could put the employee even more in difficulty : a virtuous resource may have already explored several avenues to solve the issue, but without success, and needs the experience of the leader to a crucial comparison.
Furthermore, the compulsory “bring me solutions” reprimand can push employees to strive to find a solution at all costs: a remedy that can be presented to the leader and must be strongly defended. This, as is evident, can favor hasty choices and threaten group dynamics.
Last, but not least: telling employees not to “bring trouble” can spread a culture of fear, discouraging resources from informing the leader when a critical issue arises, for fear of a negative reaction. This is how the manager finds himself in the dark, unaware of what really happens: the leader loses control and, often, the light comes back on only when the crisis is serious.
“Bring me problems!” (but do it smart): the mantra of an enlightened leader
A conscious leader must have control over what happens under his responsibility. It is useless to ask employees to bring only successes and good news if the dust of crisis is about to overflow under the carpet.
Better, on the other hand, encourage resources to be transparent, especially when it comes to problems: an enlightened leader must know the issues in order to intervene promptly and resolve them without complications.
How to do it? Here are some tips:
1. Be open
If your resources are afraid to even walk through your office door to ask for help, we have a problem.
Change your behavior now to put your employees at ease and understand that hearing bad news and reacting to problems, just when the going gets tough, is your job.
Do it with a smile.
2. Educate the team in critical analysis
In showing openness, there is a risk that the team will go on pilgrimage to your office to complain about every minutia.
To avoid this, educate the team in critical analysis: there is a significant difference between complaining and declaring a problem.
Complaints are almost always characterized by unscrupulous use of always or never (“The marketing team always questions us at the last minute and demands immediate answers! Impossible!”), identifies a culprit (in this case the marketing team) and maintains a superficial evaluation, not very concrete.
Raising an issue in a critical way, on the other hand, means providing objective facts, examining the causes and consequences of the situation, defining everyone’s responsibilities in an honest way.
Taking up the previous case, the question could be posed like this: “We don’t have a good flow of communication with the marketing team, I think we should improve in the way we relate to them and in the frequency of communications. Perhaps in this way, we could anticipate some requests that often come too late and make it difficult for us to react in time. “.
3. Give the employee the tools he needs
Sometimes a resource that comes to you already has the answer in your pocket and is just looking for your ok to act. Other times, however, the employee may be in trouble and need a discussion to find a solution and implement it.
In other cases, however, the employee not only has no idea how to resolve an issue but doesn’t even have the tools to do it.
In this situation your contribution is central: in order not to aggravate the issue, provide the resource with maximum support, direct it to those who can help it and spend it personally.
Your active presence will make the team feel reassured and protected and will improve the climate of trust.