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The problem with problem solvers is that if they don’t have a good enough problem to solve, they’ll invent one.
If you’re a problem-solver, have you ever been proud of any solutions you created even though they didn’t get you closer to your real goal at the time?
If you manage problem-solvers, do you always structure tasks in a way that allows opportunity for the regular small wins that they crave, while keeping them on the path to the result you really want from them?
When the shit hits the fan and everyone panics about completing a particular task before the deadline, I’ve observed that assumptions tend to be made. Progress is deemed more important than certainty. It’s possible that these assumptions may be correct, but very often they turn out not to be and they lead people in the wrong direction, costing even more time and creating even more panic.
Think of it this way. If you’re lost in a forest, you don’t know exactly where you are or where you need to go, running may feel good because at least you’re doing something, but you’re probably running the wrong way. It’s better to stop and figure out the right direction first.
Always have a plan. The first part of coming up with a plan is to know exactly where you are and exactly where you need to get to. Without it you’ll probably end up getting even more lost.
I’ve heard several managers over the years say that they have an open door policy. It’s become one of those cliches that managers feel they need to say to make their minions feel like their input is valued. In a few cases they are genuinely interested in hearing from their teams, but in most cases I’ve experienced it’s just a platitude. In the worst cases it’s actually the last thing they really want.
If you are not genuinely enthusiastic to talk to your people and absorb the inputs they have to share, don’t claim to have an open door policy. In fact, just don’t use that expression. Period. You shouldn’t need to tell your team that you’re approachable. Just be approachable! Even better, make the first move and approach them, individually, human-to-human. If you’re not comfortable enough to just grab a seat next to any one of your team and say hi, then how can you ever expect them to be comfortable coming to you?