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Teaching Staff to Become More Proactive Problem Solvers!


As we manage our workloads and our daily enterprises, as we navigate meetings and communications, one of the things that can drain time is managing a team. It can also drain your patience, but that's another blog for another day... One of the skill sets I believe I most value in teammates and employees is that of a self starter proactive problem solver. A person who can take a project and run with it and before asking thousands of questions, try to come up with options. I not saying people don't need context to their tasks that they take on, but sometimes there can be such a thing as too much explanation.

You know what I'm talking about, the person in the office you assign a new task to via email and fifteen minutes later there they are outside your door, printed email in hand, asking questions you thought were second nature to most working professionals. And in the time you spend explaining and teaching, you could have accomplished the task yourself. This is why many of us fail at delegation. So is pro-activity teachable? Can people become problem solvers? Or is this an innate trait? How to we encourage this behavior and how do we set our expectations of our teammates and staff?

First, is it too much to ask? I personally don't think so. I will take an employee with hunger and an ability to solve a problem all day long. I can teach them the other skills. Second is it innate or is it learned? I guess this depends on who you ask. How do we as leaders encourage someone to be proactive? For me right now it's telling them to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Breaking large projects down into meaningful tasks with a beginning a middle and an end provides a starting point and avoids the all too common problem of that overwhelmed feeling.People often become so overwhelmed by the big project and cannot remove their brain from spinning and focus on the task at hand.

I am also learning to be as explicit as possible in my instructions. Perhaps adding a "why" when asking for the task to be completed to this in order to give context for those that need it most. What else could we do better to teach and encourage? How do we interview and hire folks with these skill sets? What do you look for in your candidates? Not delegating and keeping all of the work for yourself isn't the option. Coping is one thing, forging forward is another. As you contemplate your summer and all of the projects you have saved for these precious few months, what do you need to accomplish that someone else could help you with and how do you plan on helping them succeed? When is it time to cut your losses? Asking for a friend of course...

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Cheers, Lynne

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