By Cameron Morrissey
“Management is the art of making problems so interesting that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.” ~Paul Hawken
“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” – Duke Ellington
Every good organization is based on solving a need/want of a consumer. Departments run no differently, and neither do careers. Successful organizations, successful departments and successful people find problems whose solutions they can passionately pursue. In effect, they are defined by the problems they seek to solve. They fall in love with their problems because the greater the problem, the greater impact the solving of that problem will have on their success. This leads to the first insight for the leader:
The first focus is The Problem…..then The Solution
So what is the problem you seek to solve? As the quote says above, great managers help their staff get excited about solving the problems they face. If you can solicit interest in the problem, the solution you create will be that much better. Let me draw another parallel; whether it is Sudoku, Crossword Puzzles, or video games, the more engaging the problem, the more we will be drawn to it which creates more focus on its solution. With success comes a need for further challenges and further success and like any field of study you progress from the basics, to the intermediate and the advanced. This leads to the second insight for the Leader:
Your career, department and business should be about solving increasingly more difficult problems
While it may seem obvious, it sadly plays out every day in many organizations, departments, and careers: Those who solve the same problems over and over again, or who even move to problems of diminishing importance, do not grow and progress remotely as fast as those who seek bigger challenges. So once you have a starting place (a problem), how do you get your team motivated to solve it? And secondly, how do you get them to strive for greater and greater problems once they have succeeded in tackling the first? Luckily the same principles apply to both questions:
Why is it important? Tie it to something big. Don’t be humble, make it seem as important and critical as possible without being deceptive. People want a purpose, and a team’s best efforts are almost always made when they are called to do something great. The more important, the more engaged they will be with the solution.
Give them ownership. They can’t be passionate if they don’t feel they have a stake in it. Let them know how the solution will impact them. Look for opportunities to get their ideas on the solution, then let them run with their idea. Alternatively, you can prevail to their sense of competition and pride, whether it be personal, departmental, or company pride. Eventual success against a great competitor is powerful motivation.
Free them from failure. Most people’s greatest fear is of failure. If you are going to free them to be passionate about finding a solution, you need to assuage their concerns of failure. Share your own failures, let them know up front you’ll try a few solutions, and reward those who made an attempt but came up short. If you want their absolute best, you need to be prepared to cheer them up when they reach, but come up short.
If you help your team to fall in love with their problems, they’ll fall in love with finding the solution. The goal should be a self-perpetuating loop where you are seeking out bigger and bigger problems to solve as a department so that you can feel the rush of successfully meeting the challenge. The importance and size of the solution though, can only match the importance of the problem. Problem first, then solution.
About The Author
Author of The Manager’s Diary: Thinking Outside the Cubicle which has been published on six continents (and just waiting for a Barnes & Noble to open in Antarctica so we can knock off the last one). Cameron has a business career that spans over 20 years and includes management positions in broad range of organizations from Fortune 500 companies and government entities to small companies. This wide range of experience provides inspiration for his Blog, Facebook, and Twitter content, with over 500,000 Subscribers.
Because he understands the time constraints of today’s modern Leader, Cameron specializes in “quick hit” and actionable ideas and advice to become a better leader for your team, your boss, the organization, and your own career. (Source: Cameron’s Linked In Profile)
If you liked this post you’ll love Cameron’s book The Manager’s Diary: Thinking Outside the Cubicle. It’s filled with quick and actionable advice on a broad range of topics that speak to today’s leaders. Give it a look in hard copy or Kindle!
This featured article was originally published by Cameron on his blog and is reproduced here with his kind permission. You will find many more such articles and other inspiring stuff on his blog, The Manager’s Diary. I would like to express my gratitude to Cameron for allowing me to share this wonderfully insightful article on Rajiv’s Motivation Zone.