No one likes to hear complaining or work with problem mongers who appear predisposed to pointing out problems and complaining when they do not agree. They drain resources, creativity, and emotional reserves. The easy solution is to decree, “If you bring up a problem, you must also present a solution”. But does the requirement to have a solution to every problem really realistic in today’s environment?

In our era of complex problems and change that often requires teamwork and collaboration, requiring someone to have a solution to every problem may be a relic of the past. While we do want people to have positive and constructive attitudes and behaviors, we cannot allow this tired mantra to dominate our culture of success if we are to keep up in the world.

Have you ever found a problem or became concerned about an issue, but were afraid to surface it? Have you worked with people who simply did not tolerate negativity or cautiousness in their exuberance to push forward? Have you experienced retribution in your past that causes you to holdback even when you believe your thoughts or observations are relevant?

Non-assertive introverts are particularly susceptible to holding back. This relic concept that you must have a solution to every problem provides a convenience excuse. History provides a reason not to speak up when there are repercussions of how management punished people when they spoke up.

In the world of innovation, there is a common adage that it is better to fail fast than to continuing to pursue bad ideas. In the world of emergency management, those who sound the alarm receive praise even though they do not have the direct ability or resources to solve the problem. Where I live, it is a crime to observe someone in peril and not render assistance. Yet, in business, we require people to have a solution to every problem.

While we do want to discourage whining or complaining, we do not want to discourage good intentions. In so doing, we likely miss opportunities or fail to avoid problems. I propose that it is far better to encourage people to share their concerns even when they do not have a clue about solving it. So how do you create a culture that allows people to speak up?

Lead by example: Present your own concerns or observations and ask your team for their input.

Ask good questions: Here is a simple list of questions that will encourage people to open up.

  • What do you think about what we are considering?
  • Do you have any concerns about the decision?
  • Do you think we are missing anything?
  • How do you feel about the direction we are going?

Listen responsively: Practice attentive listening whenever someone is stepping out and voicing their opinion.

Show appreciation: While you may not see the logic or share their concerns, you can appreciate the person for taking their time to voice their opinion. If their concerns point out a real problem, be sure to thank and acknowledge them in an appropriate manner.

With the exponential increase of how fast things change, it is more important than ever before to create an organizational culture that does not require someone to have a solution to every problem. You will be far better off by creating a culture that invites people to speak up even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient.

What reasons can you offer to eliminate the requirement to have a solution to every problem?

Have a Solution to Every Problem
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