If you work with and for people you can pretty much expect that you will have people problems. Not only will you have people problems, but you will have the everyday problems that come with running a business that caters to people’s needs in one way or another. If you are in a management position I am sure you understand what I am talking about. It is very easy for those whom you “manage” (and I say that loosely as you really cannot manage people, but you can manage the situation) to come to you with all kinds of problems that they expect you to take care of for them, and right away. Most of the time they do not realize what all that entails for you to do. Sometimes it seems as if they think you can make magically fix every problem.
After 16 years of office management I have made my staff realize that I do not have a magic wand, and that many times I alone cannot fix all of the issues that are brought to me by them or my employer. As much as I would really like to be able to do this, as it would make me look like a superstar, I cannot. But I did have a trick up my sleeve and have come up with four questions that I will pose to my staff when they want to bring a problem to my attention (that they feel needs to be addressed) that will make not only my job easier, but will make problem solving as a whole much better and I will tell you why in just a moment.
Here are the four questions that the problem bringer needs to answer if they wish to have me address a problem with them.
1. What is the problem, define it in detail?
2. What is the cause of the problem?
3. What are possible solutions to this problem?
4. What is my solution to solve the problem?
By asking that each person, including myself, to think through and answer these four questions before bringing a problem to management, it makes the “bringer” really think about what they think the problem is, what is the cause of it, and what do they think would be a good solution to resolve the problem.
More times than not many problems that are brought to management really end up being issues that people want to “let hot air out” and not really problems that need solutions. Not to say that management should not listen to staff when they have frustrations that they need to talk about, because this is very necessary. But, those issues need to be handled differently than true problems. I have to admit that many times when I think that there is a problem that needs to be addressed and I take the time to go through the steps above, I realize that it is an issue that I can resolve myself and not make a bigger issue of it than necessary and bring others into it. If we can get each person that we work with to take time to go through each step above when there is a real problem it will help expedite the solution to the problem and promote a more productive workplace.
“We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” – Lee Iacocca