Eight Ways to Create a Culture of Problem Solvers

“Hey, Boss, we’ve got a problem!Those words will usually capture our attention immediately, triggering within us a whole range of reactions. We may appreciate learning about the problem so it can be quickly corrected, yet we may also be annoyed that we are being distracted from other important work we’re doing.  We might be concerned about the situation, yet resentful that people are always dumping problems on us.

Occasional problems are a normal part of day-to-day operations, and fortunately, most are easily solved if corrected quickly and constructively.  The way you as a leader deal with them will have a major impact on how many problems your direct reports bring to you and how much initiative they will learn to use to solve problems on their own. Continue reading

Are You Problem-Peckers or Problem-Solvers? Leading Your Team to Thorough Solutions

“We’ve got a major problem on our hands,” said Anthony to his boss.  “That fix we put in last week to the customer ordering system caused a much bigger problem, and now the system is frozen.  No customers can get online to place orders.  We’re working on it, Jeff.  We’ll have it up and running in a couple hours.”

Jeff appreciated Anthony’s candor, and he knew Anthony was as good as his word in his promise to have the system back online in short order.  But he was troubled by a rash of technical problems that seemed to be caused by incomplete solutions to issues. Continue reading

Diversity Lessons from Frederick the Mouse

Frederick the mouse has been around for generations.  Leo Lionni’s children’s book was published in 1963, and is still a teacher’s favorite because of its compelling lessons, according to the National Education Association.  Maybe it should be a top management book, too.

For those of us who were never introduced to it through some fluke of fate, Frederick and his four family members live together in a stone wall.  All summer long, the other four family members diligently gather and store grain for the winter, while Frederick idles, subject to scorn and harassment for not contributing to the work of the family.  But Frederick insists he is indeed contributing, saying that he is gathering colors and sounds and sights.  His dubious family marginalizes him.  Then comes the long, hard winter, and the industriously gathered food runs low.  It’s then that Frederick’s value emerges, as he soothes the fear of the family by painting pictures of the warmth and colors and sounds of summer.  His poetic renderings of a hopeful future keep the family going despite their difficult physical situation. Continue reading

Lemming Leadership: Stopping the Rush to the Sea

Though its verity is now debunked, there is still power in the analogy of blindly trusting lemmings following a misguided leader over a cliff to death in the sea.  The very word ‘lemming’ has come to be associated with undiscerning and unquestioning followers of pointless routine, as in a large banner strung from a freeway overpass that calls out to rush hour drivers, “Welcome back, lemmings.”  Even more sinister is the assumption that these poor human lemmings are often the unwitting victims of, at best, an equally dumb leader, and at worst, a malicious one. Continue reading