As leaders, we know that part of our role is to solve problems and help our teams to solve problems. But does it sometimes feel that you are spending more and more time on hearing about problems and solving problems than you are on the all the other aspects of your role?
When this starts happening, start to pay attention. Are the same people coming to you over and over again? Are they bringing you the same problem every time or a similar problem? Are you seeing a pattern?
How do you change this pattern? How do you get your team to think about problem-solving differently?
Create a culture that is solution focused.
Here are a few ways to do that:
Bring a problem AND a solution – encourage team members to propose at least one solution when they bring up a problem. When someone brings you a problem, ask, “What do you think we could do?” and keep pushing them to come up with ideas. Model this behavior yourself. This will take consistent practice for both you and your team members.
Cultivate the attitude that there is always a solution – when the team approaches any problem with the mindset that there is always a solution to a problem, it changes how they view problems or issues. It encourages them to be more creative in the way they approach problems.
Ask questions – sometimes when there isn’t an obvious solution, it might be because we are not asking enough questions, or they are not the right questions. Encourage your team to ask questions and ensure that when they do, they are heard and respected.
Develop trust – creating an environment where your team trusts you is critical. It is one thing to say, “You can trust me”, it is another to practice that. Your team will soon discover whether your words are backed up by actions. If you say they can trust you, then you need to trust them, even when you don’t want to.
Be willing to tolerate failure – lots of companies and leaders say that they want their teams to be innovative, but few are willing to tolerate risk or failure. True innovation requires being willing to take some risks and tolerate some failures. Ask yourself, are you really looking for innovation? Are you willing to risk failure?
Encourage action – spending too long talking, pondering and trying to find the perfect solution is not going to solve problems. Empower your team to think, and then act! Help them to develop a mindset that shifts from “Can I?” to “How can I?”
Look for lessons in each challenge – when something has failed, immediately begin to focus on what was learned in the process. Instead of focusing on the failure, ask questions: what can we learn from this; how can we take what we learned and change things moving forward. As you practice and model this behavior, your team learns that failure or challenges can be used in a positive way.
Model a solution-focused behavior and keep practicing it. It is easy to become defensive or angry in the face of challenges. Be humble, and be willing to listen and learn from others. By cultivating and modeling the behavior that you would like to see from your team, you will be living your leadership role.