At work most people want to put their best foot forward. Very often in reviews and meetings they will showcase the best case and what’s working well. Problems are either hidden away or made smaller than they are actually. This is because people feel that having problems will cause them to be judged adversely and affect them at work.

This often creates multiple issues for the organisation. Small failures become big because they are not disclosed. Resources and money are wasted on efforts by teams longer than they should be. In worst case scenarios like the challenger shuttle disaster or Enron’s bankruptcy, problems undisclosed can decimate organisations and cost lives.

What then is the solution ?

The leader must become a problem magnet and create a safe space for everyone to share their problems. Here is how you can do it 

1. What’s not working – Ask in every meeting what is not working, not growing, unsuccessful, failing, costing extra money ? Ask everyone in the team to share the issues and problems.

2. Understand, don’t judge – When people do share the issues, failures and concerns, seek to understand deeply and not judge the individual. Ask what when where why who to get to the bottom of the issue.

3. Thank them – Thank people for sharing the issues and concerns and appreciate their honesty and candor. 

4. Unlock and solve – Focus your time and energy on solving the issues for your teams. It may mean allocating resources, getting a decision made that has been stuck or coaching the team to do it a different way.

5. Give me your problems – Catch up with everyone – your teams, your colleagues and your bosses and say “give me your problems”. Best case you can help solve them or at the very least help listen to them. Very often problems are unsolved because there is no one to hear them.

As a leader we are meant to be problem solvers and solution providers. We cannot solve all problems but we can create a safe space for our teams to share their problems.

Seek out the problems and they start to go away.

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