Why You Shouldn’t Always Suggest a Solution
Fight the instinct.
It's a natural reaction. Everyone does it.
You hear a problem and you immediately want to prescribe a solution--the perfect antidote--a master plan that will solve everything.
But all too often, you give into the temptation to define a solution well before the full problem is articulated and explored.
You're not the only one. Leaders at all levels are guilty of doing this. They hear a problem--the outlines of danger--and they rush to offer their agenda. In their desire to be helpful, they end up setting others on a path that may be costly--not only in resources but also in time.
There are a number of reasons why presenting a solution right away has downsides. For example:
1. You Get it Wrong
When you rush to solve a problem, you may miss an opportunity to reflect on the issues at hand. Your agenda might work, but it might not solve the right problem or address the real, underlying issues.
Tip: Make sure you identify the full extent of the problem before considering possible solutions. Keep an open mind.
2. You Become a Crutch
By always providing solutions, you're not giving others the chance to develop their own problem-solving muscles. When you are the one dictating ideas--you're not offering others the chance to work things out on their own. Over time, your employees will start to doubt their abilities. And the real danger is that you will find that you've trained them to wait to do what they are told.
Tip: Always provide a space and an opportunity for people to present their ideas and to come up with their own solutions.
3. You Waste Time
If you are the sole source of ideas, you indirectly send the message that you do not believe your team can solve problems on their own. As a result, you will be bogged down helping others, and you won't be able to move on to working on bigger things.
Tip: Be alert for people coming to you with the same problems over and over again. Don't become a resource that wastes everyone's time--including your own!
4. You Give Bad Advice
When you come up with a solution to solve someone else's problem, it may be the wrong solution. Your recommendations may not fit your colleague's style. Or the other party may not totally understand where you're coming from. What works for your personality or leadership style may not work for someone else. Something that seems like a no-brainer for you--with your experience and expertise--may prove to be too challenging for someone else (with less experience and expertise) to handle. Or, in an even worse case, they may not agree with you creating resentment.
Tip: Be open to different ideas and tactics--even if they are not in line with your preferred approach.
5. You Miss Out On Good Ideas
Your solution might be totally feasible, but if you jump in too soon with all the answers, you could miss out on something that could be far better.
Tip: Before putting in your two cents, ask your team for their ideas.
6. You De-motivate Your Team
When people aren't allowed to suggest their own ideas, they don't feel competent or engaged.
Tip: Listen with curiosity, and treat all suggestions seriously. Don't dismiss the ideas of others too quickly.