Are You a Problem Solver?

You know some weeks, our CEO makes it a little too easy to bring you an interesting topic. As I hope you took some time out today to watch the video above, Chief Dreamer, Michael McMillan, posits a very direct question?

Are you a problem solver?

We’d all like to think so, right?

But as Mike breaks the term down, I’d believe many of us taking an honestinventory of our careers might find that each of us has trading up and down through the roles he defined. As an exercise in both education and humility, all me, the Marketing Dreamer, to show you how all of us work through Mike’s Buckets of Problem Solving from our first roles in business through to today.

The Problem Creator

When we begin our careers, we often are giving a limited set of responsibilities, and more typically, a very exhaustive process by which to complete them. All too often, either of our own volition or by proxy of the instructions given, we become a Problem Creator. Let’s just go ahead and toss away the typical mistakes of our youth though. It’s rare we step out from college, into an internship, and waltz into an entry-level position with absolutely no mistakes to our name. Toss the baby out with the bathwater there; being a creator because youthful hubris leads to a clerical error, or other smudge on our record is simply a given.

As Mike hinted above, where Problem Creators become a valuable resource for our companies comes into play when their following of a process gives way to never-seen-before issues. All too often when people transition out of a job, and are left to leave the instructions for the next guy things can get hairy fast. Directions too detailed can complicate simple processes into mind-boggling tedium. Conversely, lax instructions can lead a newer employee to either be dependent upon their supervisor to finish their tasks… or worse… be left making crucial decisions they’re not equipped to handle. When we find these Problem Creators we should celebrate the discovery of ways to improve our business. The creators grant us the opportunity to better ourselves in truly tangible ways.

The Problem Finder

Let’s be honest. When an employee makes a mistake, they don’t often proclaim it loudly (except when they learn that Reply All is right next to Reply!). Our Problem Finders become our key players to sniff out the issues, and shine the light on them. There’s not much more that needs to be said here. Most often well-placed in HR and Operations, your Finders exist to help flesh out areas and processes to improve. Use them as your guides, and you’re left with a roadmap to your future prosperity and success.

The Problem Complainer

When an issue arises in our businesses, It’s a needle to thread; how do we solve itcan often be losts when a Complainer sits in our midst. These ne’er-do-wrongs tend to find the problems, not unlike our Problem Finders, but miss that crucial skill to offer a path to improvement. As Mike details, there is value to a Complaineron staff, when your Finders are perhaps more introverted.

The Problem Follower

On your front line, the Problem Followers are your day-to-day grunts. Not to be uncouth about it, but we recognize who they are. Those folks who punch in on time, eat lunch on time, take a piece of cake on the birthday celebrations, and leave like clockwork at the stroke of five. Issues that come up are left right where they were when your Creators were making them, your finders were sleuthing them out, and your Complainers were loudly discussing it in the breakroom. Finding your followers, and mentoring them into your Finders and eventually Solvers is one of the key tasks you should focusing on as a manager or leader. Your Followers are clay to be molded. Never shaking the boat is an indication they can one day steer your ship.

The Problem Solver

Last, and truly most important, are your Problem Solvers. Those key staff members who actively engage you and your business with an eye to constantly evolve. Staff members willing to identify issues, offer solutions for them, and most importantly… roll up their sleeves and get dirty eliminating. The more of these folks on your team? The more your bottom line always stays clearly in the black.

Your role here is to not only be your companies’ biggest Problem Solver, but to also deputize, train, and lead the future Problem Solvers throughout every department under your roof. These folks are your C-Level managers; whose responsibilities and measurables grant them the burden of always seeking the best solutions for the company. They think lean, and win big. They plan, and execute. They are always begging for forgiveness, not seeking permission. They turn a large breadth of skills into tangible results you can count on to deliver success from errant failures. They are your team captains, and as such, should be ones bringing you the big-picture-ramifications having always been in the trenches wrestling victory away from defeat.

And now? HOMEWORK.

Yup, you better believe we weren’t going to let you off the hook this week. We want you to pull up a roster of your employees. Go ahead. We’ll wait.

Now, next to each employee, evaluate and grade them (Creator, Finder, Complainer, Follower, and Solver).

Look over your list, and start seeing the forest for the trees. How many solvers do you have? How many Followers and Finders are ready to take a step up?

Make your plan of action, and promote someone this week. Fortune favors the bold. And the bold don’t scurry away from the problems that plague your business. They solve them.