By Michael Holland

Bring me problems.  Your leadership mantra challenge for 2017 should be Bring Me Problems.  We have so often heard the opposite phrase of don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.  We are too busy to solve all these problems and we want our employees to stand on their own, figure things out, be empowered, be efficient and make everything work.

There’s a counterintuitive secret that the great leaders know: true empowerment comes from failure and we don’t let our employees fail near enough.

When was the last time you gave your employee a big raise and promotion because of the failures they had the previous year?

Did the new super big title executive get the recent huge bonus as an outcome of her failures?

We SAY we want employees and teams to be innovative, engaged and to grow.  And the best way to help employees and teams to be innovative, engaged and grow is to encourage, reward, celebrate, embrace failures BECAUSE it is risk taking that is the key ingredient to building the culture we say we want.

Great leaders want problems to come to them because. . .

  • These leaders want to have both/all brains working on the problem.  This doesn’t mean the employee/team comes with a blank slate.  It does mean they come in with a full belief that no idea is off the table and those ideas on the fringes of comfort might actually be the best.
  • These leaders need to see how the employee/team is/are thinking and solving so that they can feed and enable and coach the process of problem solving.

A culture of encouraging failure builds in the behaviors you desire from employees and is not for the faint of heart.  And this is where teams miss enormous opportunity due to a lack of healthy conflict.  Imagine harnessing the full brainpower, wisdom, experience within your team to analyze, discuss, debate a problem.

Coaching – For You and Your Peers

  1. How do you react when employees bring you problems?
  2. How do you want your boss to react when you bring her a problem?  How about your CEO? Or your HR partner? Or the Controller?
  3. What would it be like to work for a boss that fully embraced Bring Me Problems?  Grab a peer leader and each of you share your thoughts.