At some point in your career you may have told someone some variant of this.
‘Starting bringing solutions, not just problems’
You might even have been told it yourself.
It sounds like the kind of thing a manager should say, and appears on inspiring management training slides like this that should have died in the 90s.
Only issue is, as Lara Hogan recently wrote in a perceptive blog post, the phrase is often really unhelpful.
It's a deflection mechanism rather than something constructive for your team members. More often than not it won’t result in the ‘solutions’ that you’re after.
When we say ‘bring me solutions not problems’ what we often mean is:
Now, if it’s number one, you need to be honest with your team member about that, rather than deflecting it. If you’re the wrong person to speak to, suggest an alternative. Or if you’re just too busy at that point, then tell them to come back later.
Number two is more interesting. Rather than shutting the conversation down by asking for a ‘solution’, you can be doing more to help them get there (presumably if they had a solution and knew how to present it, they’d have done it already).
Hogan has a list of open-ended questions you can ask at this point to try and get the individual to dig more into the core of their problem in a way which will make it more constructive for both of you.
As she says:
‘Any of these open questions will put the responsibility back on this person’s shoulders to do more work to address the issue. They also make it clear that you’re not shutting the conversation down; you’re open to listening, you just need them to actively participate in the work.’
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We’ve compiled a list of questions you can ask your managers and team members to identify the challenges they face, and help you pick the right solutions.