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Solving The Problems Of Your World. Part I

As a business owner or manager, when someone comes to you with a problem, what’s your first reaction? Sit down and tease it out with them? Determine what they are looking for from you? Or, like most managers, do you jump in and start solving the problem for them? If so, how is this working out for you? Do you find you’re the one solving all the problems, making all the decisions? Do you get around to your own work? Do you get tired of this?

If you’re nodding your head, saying “yes, that’s what happens to me“, you’re definitely not alone but you might be part of the problem.  This is a very common trap that Managers fall into.  The thought-process goes something along the line of “I’m supposed to have all the answers, that’s my role.  When someone comes to me with a problem, I’m supposed to fix it for them“.  Taking a step back, however, is it really the role of manager to solve everyone else’s problems? Or, is the role more about developing people to be able to solve their own problems, in a way consistent with the company and/or Business owner’s expectations?

For many people, if they can “run something passed” and come away with either the correct answer or the problem taken off their desk, they’ll avail of the option.  This is especially true if there’s only an upside (100% certainty of the decision or the problem is removed) with no consequences (e.g., no “chat”, no knock-on performance issues, no “go and sort it yourself” etc).

If this is sounding familiar, what can you do to break the cycle?

Step 1: Acknowledge the Pattern

Recognise this is a behavioural pattern that can be changed.  Identify which people you have fallen into this cycle with and isolate your responses to these people.  Determine alternative, appropriate responses that you can use the next time you find yourself in this situation.  For example, instead of jumping in with a possible solution, ask them what they are looking for by coming to you?  Is it input, knowledge, thoughts or do they want you to solve the problem?  Another option might be to throw it back to them and ask them what their thoughts on the issue are.

Step 2: Determine Why You

Find out the underlying reasons they are coming to you the whole time.  Is it that they aren’t confident in their level of knowledge and/or skills?  Is it that if they make a mistake, it’s treated as a big deal?  Is it that it is faster for them to come to you?  Is it that any decisions they make will be questioned anyway so why bother?  There are many different reasons why such a pattern of escalation might arise.  It’s important for you to honestly consider the reasons behind such a cycle because the impact is that everything slows down – decisions, solutions, implementation, results.

Step 3: Identify a Plan of Action

This really depends on the root-cause of the pattern.  If it’s lack of knowledge and/or skills, spending time identifying the areas of uncertainty and developing a training plan (on-the-job or a course) should minimise this.  If it’s a time thing, you need to set some boundaries and expectations as to what is and isn’t acceptable.   If it’s a confidence issue, developing a plan to build the confidence (on both sides) can be created but more about how to do that in my next blog.

In the meantime, do you regularly find yourself sorting out other people’s problems, while losing your own time and train of thought?  If so, what tricks do you use to side-step it?

I work with Business Owners, Executives and Managers to help them overcome blockages so that they achieve their goals. I excel at getting people to think, getting people to talk and getting people to agree to giving things a go. In summary, I bring Clarity to the issues, provide on-going Support and guide them to achieve Results. I am an experienced Executive Coach and Leadership Development Trainer. I am qualified in 360 Emotional Intelligence and am constantly seeking new ways to assist my clients.

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  • This is a really useful post, Irial. I’m helping a number ofnclients with their online/social media strategy where I’m often expected toncome up with and be the workableu00a0strategy for the Biz entirely. Becausenthese technologies are new to the people, they may prefer me to beu00a0theirnsocial media manager, and I will need to remind them that this is not the case.nSometimes it takes a few attempts but after the while they see the value inntaking ownership for their own strategy and SM marketing. u00a0

  • Hi Irial. Ah, the great power of delegation and the reluctance to do it. I have been guilty of this in the past – the world won’t work without me. Simply meant that things didn’t get done as effectively as they should have been. As soon as I started to delegate, my productivity went up and also the people I assigned responsibilty to felt empowered – so a win/win.

  • Great post Irial.u00a0 I find that people tend to come to me with a problem only when they genuinely feel stuck as I tend to ask the questions that require “outside the box” thinking.u00a0 Most of them after a few times coming back tend to take those types of questions on board themselves.u00a0 I firmly believe we find our own solutions to our problems, despite input from other people.

  • Great post Irial.u00a0 I find that people tend to come to me with a problem only when they genuinely feel stuck as I tend to ask the questions that require “outside the box” thinking.u00a0 Most of them after a few times coming back tend to take those types of questions on board themselves.u00a0 I firmly believe we find our own solutions to our problems, despite input from other people.

  • Great post Irial,nDefinitely empowering the person will help them better than just solving their problem. Ownership of issues is half the battle, and it is important that employes feel they CAN come to their manager to discuss an issue and not have their power and ability to solve the issue taken away from them. Most people will gladly attack their issues if they feel supported and not over-ruled.nnPutting it right back to them in a non-defensive manner is effective, and asking the simple question “and how would you approach this issue?” or “what are your own thoughts on the issue?”

  • Irial Ofarrell

    Hi, nnThanks for allu00a0the comments.u00a0 u00a0It can be a real catch-22.u00a0 The usual excuse given is “I don’t have the time” but the real reason is “I don’t want to because…”u00a0 As Barney says, often its because we want to be needed.u00a0 Other common reasons are “I want to keep in control”, “I’d do it faster myself”nnThe joys of delegation!u00a0 Interestingly, I don’t ever provide training on delegation.u00a0 I give training on how to trani people “on-the-job” and deal with the “I don’t want to let go” bit as part of it. nCheers


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