3 Tips for Getting Solutions Instead of Problems

“Hey, do you have a few minutes?” – There’s a phrase leaders tend to dread. Great, what issue are we going to deal with today? Those “few minutes” turn into 30 or more hearing about how another department isn’t cooperating or why that big ministry launch is in trouble. No one leaves those discussions with warm fuzzy feelings.

Now, those meetings may be necessary and the issues perfectly valid. However, if your team is constantly bringing you problems to solve instead of solutions to choose from than we have a bigger concern. You need to invest the bulk of your time in developing and communicating the vision, leading the team, and making sure progress is steady. Your team should be able to handle minor issues without your involvement and, for the bigger stuff, have solutions ready for you to review and select.

Here are three tips to lead your team to developing their own solutions:

#1: Listen

Develop a reputation for being open to feedback and constructive criticism. When your team members know they can be honest with you without fear of reprisal, they’ll value the trust you’re placing in them. They’re more likely to come to you when your input is required and will ‘fess up when they’ve made a mistake (with the corrective actions already in-mind).

#2: Ask questions

If a team member comes to you with an issue but no solution, start asking questions.

  • If you were in my position, how would you handle this situation?
  • Is it possible that we simply have a communication issue here?
  • What is the best outcome for all parties involved?  How would you recommend we get to that outcome?
  • What’s the next best step we could take to resolve this issue?
  • Do we have all the information we need to make a wise decision?  If not, what information do we need and who can provide that information?

Some people have never developed critical thinking skills or been trusted to come up with potential solutions. By asking questions, you’re challenging (and encouraging) them to think this through and develop their own ideas. Even if you have a solution already in-mind, invest the time now to ask questions and see if they can come up with an idea on their own.

#3: Appreciate solution-driven team members

People will repeat behavior that is valued and your team is no exception. The next time a team member provides you with great options to solve an issue, let her know how much you appreciate the initiative. Recognize a team member in the next staff meeting when his solution saved the day. Others will take notice and start developing solutions as well.

Resolving issues is part of a leader’s job description. However, it shouldn’t (and realistically, can’t) rest solely on your shoulders. Start expecting your team members to always have potential options ready when they bring issues to the table. They’ll develop stronger critical thinking skills, you’ll save time, and your church will benefit as a result.

Is your team already in the habit of bringing you solutions? If so, how did you develop that culture?