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Once & For All: Stopping Sexual Harassment at Work

Avoiding Problem-Solving Landmines

Changing regulations. New technologies.  Budget cuts.  Let’s face it. Challenges abound in today’s workplace! There is a tremendous need for leaders to address these types of situations quickly. But the last thing you need is to rush off and make mistakes that could have been avoided. Here are five pitfalls and tips for getting around them.

Mistake 1) For the sake of speed and efficiency, take the “I’ll do it myself” approach to identifying a solution.  (Here’s where you tell yourself that involving a lot of people will just cause confusion or possibly create a scenario where people will get hurt because their input isn’t acted upon.)

Yes, when facilitated improperly, collaborative group sessions can end in chaos and hurt feelings. But, when you don’t involve others, you are missing an opportunity to engage your team, collect ideas from those closest to the problem and present team members with an opportunity to align themselves with organizational objectives. The key is to learn how to properly facilitate a collaborative session.  Remember, as a leader, it’s not your job to have all the answers, but it IS your job to develop and utilize the knowledge and talent of your team.

Mistake 2) Focus on who or what caused the problem so you can solve it once and for all.
  (This is when you act from the belief that the best way to make progress on solving a problem is to first go backward.)

Identifying the root-cause of a problem is sometimes necessary to solving it.  But most of the time it’s best not to stay mired in the past looking for who/what to blame.  Switching your team to a future focus can instantly change the tone of a meeting from cautious to cooperative.  As much as you can, avoid fixating on the things that aren’t working and use the group’s energy to identify things that are going well (…there is always something positive to build on, if you look hard enough).

Mistake 3) Assume that everyone shares the same understanding of what needs to be accomplished.  (Sad but true…group members often think they have the same destination in mind, but they end up arriving at different places.)

It is critically important to clarify the group’s goal by asking “what is our objective?”. Your team likely has people in different positions with vastly different perspectives on the situation. (For example, finance may think the objective is strictly to reduce expenses while fulfillment thinks it is to control costs while ensuring a sufficient inventory level.)  The diverse opinions and experiences of your team will work to your advantage only if you make sure everyone is using the same definition of success when it comes to the desired outcome.

Mistake 4) Get buy-in to the solution by reminding people what will happen if nothing is done.  (Okay, this isn’t a bad thing in and of itself; it’s only a mistake if you don’t ALSO cover the myriad benefits of finding a solution.)

When people don’t connect value to the achievement of a goal, motivation and execution suffer.  For maximum buy-in, have the group consider the benefits that will be realized by all stakeholders—customers, ownership, the organization as a whole, internal teams and departments and, lastly, the individuals themselves.

Mistake 5) Leave out the “accountability” piece.  (Don’t bother figuring out who’s doing what …just wing it!)

The best way to make sure people are truly part of the solution is to make sure they leave the meeting having committed to doing something. Detailed discussions should be had around questions like these: What steps must we take to reach the objective? Who will be doing what, and by when? How will we measure our progress?

For more on this topic: Preview 5 Questions Every Leader Must Ask, a video-based training program from CRM Learning. Based on the book “Leadership Made Simple” by Ed Oakley and Doug Krug, the program teaches a simple framework for facilitating a collaborative session and successfully engaging your team to address any workplace challenge (be it a problem or a new project). For more information on “Leadership Made Simple”, visit Enlightened Leadership Solutions.

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