Solving office problems

I waited until the door clicked shut before I started pulling my hair out.

A self-entitled, self-acclaimed superstar had just spent 15 minutes telling me how wonderful he was, and then he started to complain.

“I have a problem with one of my — our — colleagues. He’s a real stickler for detail. Would you talk to him for me? I don’t like him, and, as your top seller, I’m too busy anyway. OK? Thanks, sweetie.”

He pranced out of the office, having rolled the problem off his shoulders onto mine.

I shut my eyes, head in hands.

I did not want to face one more problem.

Maybe if I hid under my desk, they wouldn’t see me. Maybe they’d figure it out themselves.

The more work they did, the more problems they had, and the more I pulled my hair out. I needed them to do more work if my business was going to survive.

Something had to change? But what could I change? What did I control?

Bummer. I have control over me — my thoughts and my interpretation of the situation.

I always gave my people enough rope to hang themselves, confident that when that noose started to tighten, they would ask for help.

So, if it is to be, it is up to me. I must be the change I want to see in the world.

The clichés pinballed in my brain.

Why was this not working? I thought I loved being an entrepreneur.

I hate the word “problem.” It sinks me into my chair. I want to hide under my desk.

I also didn’t want to be the “keeper of the knowledge.” I wanted to share what I knew. I couldn’t just solve their problems; I needed to demonstrate and help them understand the thinking that is the foundation of the problem solving.

If I could do this, beyond not being mired in minutiae, I could develop the business so it was better for them. That excited me. I needed to figure out a new way to solve problems.

I wanted my people to solve their own problems.

I bought pizza and called them into the boardroom.

And I gave them keys to their new reality.

  • We do not discuss problems. We discuss opportunities and challenges.
  • I want to hear a clear explanation of the situation.
  • I want to hear three potential solutions and be prepared to discuss them.
  • I will ask you to choose one of these solutions and present your case.
  • Act on your choice.
  • Come and see me. We’ll debrief the scenario, choices and outcome.

The new world order worked.

After coaching and mentoring even the most inexperienced team members in this process, they would stick their head into my office.

“Had a challenge. Thought of three things. Picked the best one. Worked out. Catcha later!”

I quit wanting to hide under my desk. I sat on my chair and gave them high fives as they strode past my office.

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