Do your people and teams bring you problems, but no solutions?
We often hear from CMOs and senior agency executives that their people don’t come prepared with recommended solutions, and when it does happen, they pass the buck for them to solve, think of a solution to execute, or for on-the-spot training. Unfortunately, most leaders don’t have time to train their teams on a daily basis. There has to be a better way…
… And there is! The next time one of your people brings you a problem, ask the following 7 questions.
1. What is going on?
Every discussion of a problem should start with the situation. Furthermore, everyone involved in the discussion needs to have the same set of facts and observations. Asking this question provides your people the opportunity to efficiently share a quick assessment of the situation.
2. What could be going on?
If your business or team has a problem, a solution is needed, but not just any solution. If you’re going to take the trouble of investing time and energy into some type of change, it makes sense to make it the right change. By asking this question you are training your teams to consider what is possible.
3. What are your desired outcomes?
Having identified what could be going on – i.e., the possible solutions – it’s time for your people to frame the solution in S.M.A.R.T. terms. The solution needs to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Translating the desired outcome into a SMART objective is an easy way for your people to hold themselves accountable.
4. What needs to be going on to achieve the desired outcomes?
Many solutions, especially to complex challenges, require multiple moving parts. Your teams know the processes in place and the systems involved better than you do. Your role is to make sure they are challenging themselves appropriately.
5. What are you personally going to do?
They brought you a problem. They need to sign up to be part of the solution.
6. What do you need from others?
Your people will often need support from other functions or departments – by asking this question, you are training them to appreciate the critical interdependencies involved in the most complex challenges.
7. What do you need from me?
Top management should be a service element that serves operations and the people. This question makes that explicitly clear and does so in the context of your team working through and presenting you with a solution. In many ways, this is the heart of servant leadership. See our recent interview with Cheryl Bachelder here: Servant Leadership for CEOs and CMOs, With Cheryl Bachelder – Mercer Island Group and buy her book!
That’s it – 7 simple, easy-to-remember questions you can ask your people and teams that will help turn them into problem solvers. Wrapping all of this up with a bow:
The 7 Questions that Turn People into Problem Solvers
What is going on?
What could be going on?
What are your desired outcomes?
What needs to be going on to accomplish the desired outcomes?
What are you personally going to do?
What do you need from others?
What do you need from me?
Be mindful of your cash position.
Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Zillow Group, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Ulta Beauty, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.