When problems arise in your company, it can be tempting for employees to hand problems off to their boss. Though it would be the easy way to do things, this approach leads to inefficiency and the waste of many people’s time. Effective organizations instead encourage employees to bring their boss solutions to implement, not problems to solve.
One of the most important skills that you can develop as an employee is to develop solutions before bringing a problem to your boss. Ultimately, your boss doesn’t want to spend their time solving problems that you could develop a solution for yourself.
Senior property operations manager at Jackson Healthcare Jack Kennedy puts it this way:
“If you just bring me the problem, you’re bringing me half of an issue. You need to create, identify, and recognize a need and then bring the solution, that’s how you earn your job.”
Bosses want you to recognize problems and do the critical thinking or analyzing it and developing a solution so that all they have to do is approve it. Mark Gallman, a Maintenance Manager at Highwood Properties, describes it as if his employees are offering a service to the company. Employees are contracted to bring the company solutions, and it’s just good customer service to develop good, well thought-out solutions to your employer.
So how do you develop a good solution? There are a couple key things to be on the lookout for.
The best question to ask yourself when a problem arises is, “What would my boss do?” Cynthia Mills is the Founder of The Leader’s Haven and former CEO of several national and international organizations. According to Mills, the best ways to learn about your boss’s problem-solving methodology is to watch them make decisions.
For example, Kennedy always tries to make sure that his employees sit in on phone calls relating to problems that arise in their tasks. This allows them to see his problem-solving process and provides a training mentoring opportunity so that the next time a similar problem arises, they will be able to address it on their own.
You can also develop a more formal mentor or coaching relationship with your boss where you sit down regularly with them and talk about ways that you can be improving your skills. This can allow for explanation of more in-depth reasoning regarding problems you saw your boss solve or allow them to give you more feedback about the way you develop solutions.
No matter what size your organization is, politics will affect whether your solution is seen as viable. Now that you have a solution that you believe is the best way to solve an issue, you still have to sell it to other people in your organization. You may need to sell it to your boss, another team within the company, or even to the consumers.
Remember first that everyone in your organization has their own perspective and view of an issue. If your plan gets rejected, don’t get discouraged, just find a way to work through it and your solution to better fit the problem.
You can best learn about how current company politics will affect a plan by talking to your colleagues and boss. Frankly asking them for advice about a topic will help you to more fully develop your plan and help you to identify people whose support can help you to get final approval.
Also remember that everybody reports to somebody else and has obligations to those above – you never know how much pressure your boss or coworkers are under unless they share that with you. If someone cannot make time to talk about your solution, do not get discouraged.
Though it may seem obvious, this part is perhaps the most crucial. Mills says,
“One of the most important things for an employee to do is to just stop and think – especially in the rapid environment that we are in right now.”
Be intentional about how you approach a problem, and clearly communicate your reasoning behind decisions that you’ve made. This will show your boss and others in your organization why your solution will be effective.
Be aware of other people in your organization. For example, if you know that your boss is spending all of their time working on a big report that is due Friday, try not to interrupt their work and save your questions or proposed solution until Monday. People appreciate it when you are aware of and courteous of them and their time. It also makes them much more likely to accept your proposal.
Next time a problem arises on a project, find a way to develop a solution for your boss to approve, rather than bringing them a problem that will take more of both your time to hash out and solve.