As leaders, we are constantly faced with problems, and moving forward hinges on our ability to generate solutions. Basketball players shoot baskets, doctors cure ailments, and leaders solve problems; it’s what we do. When addressing issues, we typically follow the common method of Problem Solving— we state what’s wrong and then ask questions in search of a fix . For example, “Our managers are leaving the organization; what are we doing wrong? How can we fix it? Who works with these managers?”
While this method works well for processes and systems, it doesn’t work quite as well with people. It forces the team to identify someone as being wrong, and therefore places blame. By putting the blame on an individual or a group, people become defensive and a true resolution falls out of reach.
Another option that can be a successful way around this problem is a simple reframing of the question. Instead of posing the question as a glass half empty kind of problem, it can be posed as a glass half full scenario. For example, “We have great managerial talent and we want them to stay with our organization; how should we go about this?” It might seem like it’s the same question as above, but with a small shift you are highly likely to get better results and more creative solutions. By posing the question with a more positive perspective, it allows your team to discuss the concern without placing blame on anyone. This disarms them, essentially creating an unpolluted opportunity to develop ideas. This approach saves time, promotes innovation, and allows you to tap into the brilliance of your team!
Plager, Debbie. “Action ‘Thinking’: A Cognitive Look at Action Learning Programs.” OD Practitioner 2009: 38-43. Web. 29 June 2012.