When managers see a problem, we want to fix it – that’s what managers do, right?
They say the difference between leaders and managers is that leaders take the team in the right direction, and managers make sure things are done right so the leader’s direction & vision can become reality. This naturally means that one of the daily tasks of a manager is to fix problems.
Since the problems of front line producers and managers are different because the level of impact is different, we first have to learn how to see a different type of problem.
Once we identify those problems as problems, we typically have one of two responses. First, paralysis. We have no clue what to do about this newly revealed problem. Second, we approach the new problem with our old toolkit.
After all, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
What you saw or experienced as an employee did not give you the tools you need to deal with the problems you’re seeing in your employees – especially if your old manager was a bad manager. But ignoring a problem because you feel paralyzed is not the path to success.
So we reach for the things we know – our old problem solving toolkit. The success you had as an employee solving employee-level problems qualified you to take a management position, and understandably your management training didn’t include key mindset shifts you needed to go through to change your problem-solving approach to match the higher level of impact that is now expected of you.
Before you solve a problem as a new manager, ask yourself one question:
Does this solution fix the problem from the employee’s perspective, or from the team’s perspective?
How your solution scales across your whole team matters more than fixing one employee’s problem. This requires a different approach that may be more collaborative, more universal and backed up by logic that connects your team’s actions to your unit’s goals.
When you create & communicate expectations & accountability around your solution, expect resistance and wait it out.
Your team will go to lunch without you and complain about how you are running things. They will come around if you continue to be a good human being toward them – and if you don’t give in when you hear complaining. Listen and ask them detailed questions about their complaints, but be ready with your logic from the scale question.
You are not alone in feeling paralyzed and stuck working with old problem solving tools that don’t work now.
There are tons of books, videos and classes that can help you learn problem solving strategies that fit your new manager level.
Take advantage of this richness of resources. The scale question above is just the tip of the iceberg.
Your employees will thank you later, and your performance appraisal will reflect the effort you’ve put in to growing your problem-solving toolkit.