Solving the Problem is a Problem

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Mar 29

You know those five things that help you work with management from my previous posts, right? Delivery counts, solve the problem, proactive communications, being the trusted adviser, and honoring confidentiality.

Well, sometimes those things don’t work the way I wrote them.

A loyal reader e-mailed me a few days ago (using the Contact Scot page) and told the tale of earlier in the reader’s career where a solution was proposed that would solve a problem, but was blown out of the water by the management team who’s group was most affected. And, not to be outdone, the management and team went and told our hero’s manager how upset they were about the whole thing.

To add insult to career injury, the plan implemented by the disgruntled manager didn’t work either and what happens to all bad things in companies happened here. Our hero was right. But it didn’t matter.

What can be done when you have lost the good graces of your manager on proposing solutions? Or, what if you are new in a position and don’t believe you are yet able to offer solutions?

Here are five things that can help:

  • Don’t offer solutions. If you are in the position where you are not being listened to for solutions or think you are too new to suggest them, then don’t make them. All you will do by making suggested solutions is to have them continue to be ignored or having your newness exposed.
  • Offer solid contributions to others solutions. Instead, offer solid contributions to a solution that others propose. If you consistently make good additions to proposals from others, that will help you get to the “good ideas” mode that Cubicle warriors need.
  • Work the implementation hard. Regardless of the solution proposed, if you work on the implementation be the best advocate of the solution that you can be. You can also make suggestions that will make the implementation better and help out that way. The purpose here is to ensure that you are not viewed as someone who only works hard on their own stuff. Instead, yours is for the good of the cause and if this is the solution we’re going with, then we’re all in the same foxhole together.
  • No ego. Try and not have ego involved in the solutions or suggestion you propose. Be one step above that. It helps the objectivity and also ensures that it is much easier for you to change your suggestion or to help improve another suggestion. As an aside, this directly contradicts the need for passion in the work and is one of my main conundrums about “following your passion…”
  • Politics matter. Try and chat with the people in your meeting before the meeting to get a sense of where people are coming from. Try out different aspects of your proposal on them to test their feasibility. If you can do this before the meeting, you will have a good idea of how the meeting will play out. If you get into a disagreement with someone in the meeting, go to them after the meeting to make sure that both positions are understood and your relationship is whole. Pragmatism goes a long way here for your reputation in the company.

Every ‘going wrong’ situation is different. I’ve had these situations burned in the brain every time they have happened to me. It is how I have gained ‘experience’ in my work. Take the lessons — and then keep going.