Bring me solutions, not problems."
I've heard this statement said by many smart leaders over the years. It's a well-intentioned statement, but is it really that easy? Simply put, no, its not. What's missing is the notion and understanding that many of our employees don't know HOW to present solutions or there isn't a forum to do so.
Most commonly its because the work culture is not one that supports the creative problem-solving process. It could also be one that expects successful end results without providing a clear road-map to its people. It can also be one that doesn't foster open dialogue of ideas without judgement.
The assumption that employees will automatically bring viable solutions to a problem is not a given, especially when the employee has not been led to think in this type of pro-solution way. Perhaps this may be true for certain individuals, but the same can not be said for the majority of the workforce, not without providing the right environment for their feedback to be accepted.
Therein lies the real issue with the "find solutions!" mantra.
How many times have you seen a leader tell their staff what to do and how they should do it? Pretty common right? Now tell me how many times you have seen a leader ask their staff "how would you do it?" or "what do you think about our process?" or "how would you do things differently if you could?" I'm willing to bet, not as often.
Probing questions about strategy are important for employees to grow and develop and be able to think in a more solution-focused way. If an employee is rarely asked for input, the employee's thought process will not be focused on solving a problem because they have always been told what to do and how to do it. Not much thought will go into changing anything. However, if asked consistently what they think the issues are and how they may solve them, forces the employee to think in a different way. The focus is on solutions from their perspective.
If leaders consistently include dialogue within their teams that focus on identifying problems and finding solutions, the employees will begin to learn and develop a new way of thinking which will create a solution based type of thinking and response.
Think about your work environment. Are there opportunities for employees to ask questions? Are employees asked for their input regularly? Do employees feel comfortable about giving feedback, both positive and negative?
If the answer is no, you may want to take a serious look at ways you can increase the dialogue surrounding solutions to issues and create a roadmap to help guide employees towards thinking in a more solution-focused way.
Here are some easy ways to get started:
Ask for input. "What would you do?"Ask this question as often as possible to your employees.
Delve deeper. When given an answer, ask the employee how they came to the solution they presented. This will show you what level of strategic thinking the employee has and areas to further coach them to finding the best resolution.
Encourage. Help the employee feel empowered to provide feedback. Encourage input and conversation and brainstorming.
Creating an environment for employees that is open to feedback and communication and creative thinking, will lead the team to finding better solutions. Companies who have a strong work culture have employees who feel empowered to present solutions and suggestions.