The most important tip I learned after starting work

The most important tip I learned after starting work

Bring solutions, not problems

These five words had profound impacts on me and how I approached work working as a management consultant and I believe is applicable in pretty much every role.  I share this advice with pretty much everyone I mentor who has started working and many have come back citing this tops or is close to the top of all of the feedback I provided them.  Let’s elaborate.

Imagine you’ve started work as a financial analyst.  Your job is to run a report which is published monthly, and as your review the latest published document, yo notice that the calculations are not correct.  What do you do?  You tell your manager of course, but what you tell them is sometimes more important.  My observations are that:

  • The new hire would tell their manager
  • The slightly more experienced hire would have told their manager
    • but they would have thought about the problem before and came up with a few options:
      1. Re-issue the report for the month
      2. Leaving it for this month and correct it for next month
    • Not sure what he impacts are, they would let the manager decide
  • The even more experienced hire would have the same options but would come with the recommendation that we should leave it for the month and correct next month because in their previous role they found that re-issuing the report caused more problems and this specific report isn’t widely used unless there are problems so issuing the correction next month would have the least impact

Keep in mind that it says “bring solutions” not “solve it”.  The manager still has the final call, but thinking through the options and even providing some a recommendation shows that much more insight.  Simple right?

What happens if you don’t bring solutions

Now a few more problems to consider.  As a manager, some of my team members might say to me:

  • I won’t be able to get the analysis for the report done by Friday
  • I’m proposed on this project in this area that I’m not interested in
  • My coach doesn’t reach out and coach me as much as you do
  • The coffee machine on our floor is broken
  • I’m not recognized for the extra work I do
  • blah blah blah

If you were to hear that from a team member, what would you think of them?  A colleague of mine said “whiner” comes to mind.  I chalk it up to inexperience and try to work with them to see if we can come up with a solution.  Funny enough, you’ll find yourself potentially helping folks “whining” about other things

So you can’t get the analysis done by Friday.  Could we move the date?  Could we move the other work that’s on your plate?  Could we get someone to help you?  Which would be your preferred option?

Your coach doesn’t reach out to you as often as you’d like.  Could you reach out to them?  Could you share your concerns with them?  Did you want me to reach out to them?  Could you find a new coach?

And if you don’t have a recommendation that’s fine, you can say “I know we could do any of these 5 things, but I would appreciate your opinion on which might be the best option).

You don’t need to spend hours coming up with these options.  Come up with two options.  As you become more experienced you’ll be able to come up with more options and faster as well.  Then when you report the problem to your manager you can say “I was only able to come up with these two options, but you might have others from your experience”.

Next time you have a problem, before you report it; stop, think about it and bring solutions, not problems.


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