Invaluable and desired employees are a very rare resource. I believe a solution oriented mind set is a prerequisite to becoming one
Anyone should be able to quickly recognize the following scenario either as a manager or as an employee: Deadlines are closing, uncertainties are abundant and a certain employee, you had handed down an assignment a week ago to, keeps coming back with questions that make you wish you had done it yourself and saved that precious time.
Another relevant scenario is the perfectionist employee trying to find a perfect solution to a practical problem unable to accept time and money constraints.
Usually these scenarios end in conflict, shouts and frustrations for both sides. Expectations where no met for neither of them. The employee had expected guidance and tutoring and the manager expected results.
I feel many employees don’t fully understand how powerful a solution oriented mind set can be or how much frustration an unsecure or perfectionist employee might generate. The purpose of this post is to convey my perception of what is maybe the most important trait an employee can have: a solution oriented mind set.
Let me try and make things a bit more clear before I break down this trait to its components. When I speak of a solution oriented mind set I think of an employee capable of handling complicated assignments with:
1. Many Uncertainties
2. Gaps in knowledge
3. Unclear results
4. Surprises along the way
5. Adaptive nature
6. Producing results
This dream employee will be an asset to any organization. It’s really much simpler than it sounds. I believe the basic guideline to becoming solution oriented is to come back with results, not only more questions.
How do we make this miracle happen?
#1 Accept less than perfect solutions
One of the first things you understand when you become a manager is to accept trade-offs. You can’t have everything, you can’t eat a cake and leave it whole, you can’t light a candle on both ends, and you get the point.
Perfectionists don’t understand tradeoffs or are willing to make sacrifices their managers won’t. The golden rule of 80%/20% applies here as well. You’ll usually get 80% done in 20% of the time. The remaining 20% will usually take 80% of the time.
Accepting less than perfect solutions is an important first step in being able to produce viable practical solutions in shorter times.
#2 Simplify rather than complicate
For some reason we have a natural tendency to complicate things. Every single problem can be further complicated with each further complication messing things up even more.
For example consider building an excel sheet which is supposed to be used for budgetary planning. You could choose to look at an ordinary or average family and quickly build a rough sketch and have something to present quickly enough. You could also start researching every expense that was ever made trying to cover every option instead of just adding “Other Expenses”. This might not be perfect but it’s simplified and more importantly: it’s ready.
Instead of thinking of a complicated assignment as a whole trying to decipher and treat everything at once it is advisable to break it down and simplify it. Ask yourself:
1. What is the higher purpose of this assignment?
2. How do I get it done without losing myself in the process?
Nothing is as complicated as it seems. Everything can be simplified and taken from there. Even presenting your perception of the problem or a very rough and initial solution shows you are solution oriented and your manager will thank you for doing some thinking and sparing him that precious time.
#3 Get something done – Small steps are valuable
A very important part of a solution oriented approach is to get something done. Try to resist the urge to return empty handed with more questions and get something done either on a piece of paper, an excel sheet or an assembly line.
Managers like to see results but they appreciate effort as well. If you’re trying you’ve got it half made. No one can ignore a tangible effort.
An initial solution is better than nothing. It’s something to work and improve on. It’s much easier for a manager to guide and tutor with something tangible. Asking questions or clarifications with nothing to talk about but the general concept of the problem is not helpful and is perceived as time consuming and sometimes as lazy.
#4 Everything is doable – It’s an attitude
Be optimistic. Believe in solutions. I’m not trying to sell “success in 21 days” books but there’s a certain attitude required to becoming solution oriented. You’ve got to believe there is a solution.
It might be weak or partial but it’s better than nothing. You’ll be surprised how a change of attitudes or behavior can influence your believes (through cognitive dissonance for example).
#5 Managers like to decide – Give them alternatives and recommendations
The best thing you can do is come up with several solution outlines you’re not sure about and presenting them for your manager to decide. You’re not only on the right way to solving the problem and completing the assignment you’re also giving your manager exactly what he expects: Decisions to make.
These rough solution outlines, together with an initial sound recommendation are priceless and so are the employees that can put them together.adaptive nature, everything, manager, money constraints, Nothing, perception, perfect solutions, problem, rare resource, unsecure