I’m often asked how leaders can encourage their team to be more solution-focussed. In fact, “I wish my team would bring me solutions, not just problems”, usually comes right after “I just wish my team would do their job”.
Thankfully, encouraging your team to be more solution-focussed is relatively simple—and the changes required are completely in your control. It’s all about creating an environment where your team not only feel safe to bring new ideas, they are actively encouraged to do so. Check out our three simple tips for growing a solutions-focussed team.
1. Make Sharing Ideas Easy
I’m willing to bet that your team have good ideas on a regular basis. However, if there is no system or process for sharing those ideas, they are soon lost or forgotten. The most innovative teams I’ve worked with have idea sharing mechanisms built into their team culture and it’s acknowledged that sharing ideas is ‘what we do around here’.
A simple way to make sharing ideas easy, is to build idea discussions into your regular meetings with staff. In meetings with my team, I love to share a business challenge then ask: “If you were me, what would you do?” or “What’s one way we might address this challenge?” Actively—and regularly—asking for ideas helps set the tone.
2. Be Prepared to Explore New Ideas
If you want your team to share new ideas, you need to be open to exploring what they bring—even if you can see flaws in their plan. Instead of responding with, “That’s a great idea but…”, practice starting with “What I love about that idea is…” and be generous with pointing out the positives. Even the most flawed ideas have positives that can be captured and built upon. Look for the bits that will work and highlight those first.
3. Share Concerns as Questions
Once you have shared all that is great about their idea, encourage development of the plan by sharing your concerns as questions, not statements of fact. When you say something like, “We’ll never get that past Health and Safety”, you’re drawing a line in the sand and putting a stop to the idea being explored any further. Is it any wonder that your team stop bringing you ideas?!
However, when you point out the positives and then ask questions like “How can we ensure that Health and Safety are happy with the plan?”, you’re leaving the door open for exploration and empowering your team to keep digging. In doing so, one of two things will happen. Either a) they will realise for themselves that their idea is not as feasible as they thought, or b) they will solve the problem and turn the good idea into a great one. Both outcomes are a result of your team taking responsibility for the solution—and that’s what you’re looking for.
If you want your team to be solutions-focussed, you need to consistently pass the challenges back to them and allow them time and space to find a solution. This can feel slow and clumsy in the beginning (especially if you can already see the solution), but by allowing them to solve challenges without your input, you will build capability for the long-term.