Thursday, July 12, 2012

7 Ways To Move People From Problem Think To Solution Think

I had dinner the other night with a business executive who was talking about the difficulties of managing her sales people. In fact, both she and they were having so many discussions about overwhelming workloads, undesirable territories, and intra-staff conflict that their daily business focus was tipping much more to conversations about internal issues than it was to focusing externally on their clients and making sales. As she was relating how she was managing her people through their issues, a few patterns emerged:

The focus was on the problems, or what they didn't want, versus on solutions or what they did want. The manager was trying to solve her staff's problems for them in the form of "have you tried this" rather than influencing her sales people to solve their own problems. The sales people were not taking responsibility for their own success-or failure.

What can this, or any, executive do to quickly change the situation so that the company's talent can re-balance its day to an external, client/customer focus:

Initiate a laser focused "in the hallways" type of coaching climate where direct, open ended questions designed to reach solutions replace discussions that linger in the quagmire of discontent.

Let someone sit in the juices of a problem only for a few minutes, not longer, before quickly moving them to "What do you want to happen/change?" questions.

Consistently ask questions that focus the employee on what they can control and how that control can affect change "What would have to happen for that not to be a problem? What can you stop doing today that will help you with feelings of being overwhelmed?

If you hit the inevitable roadblocks of "I don't know," or "I can't stop doing anything," use techniques to move them forward. "What more information do you need to know?" "Who can you hand off "X" project to so that you can focus on more important issues? " "What important assignment are you not doing or not giving enough attention to because you can't stop doing X?" "How does that hold back your advancement in the company?"

"How does it shortchange your clients?"

Insert the word "specifically" when asking questions. "What specifically would help you to know?" Asking someone to be specific influences the likelihood of their finding a solution.

Avoid questions that can be answered with yes or no-it stops a conversation dead in its tracks.

Don't ask why. It's sounds scolding and it will keep the issue mired in discussing the problem rather than moving it toward solution.

Once your team becomes attuned to looking for solutions, you won't have to lead them in the thought process. The solution focus culture that you will have created will influence future challenges. Your teams will start using these techniques themselves to move quickly from problem to solution and they will "pay it forward" in managing their own teams.

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