Is Your Team Solving Problems, or Just Identifying Them

Some teams are really good at spotting potential problems. When colleagues present new ideas or propose new initiatives, team members readily ask tough questions and point out possible risks. But team members ought to provide constructive feedback as well. How can you, the manager, help change the culture on your team from one that’s focused on identifying problems to one that fixes them? How can you set new norms that engender a positive tone? And what’s the best way to reward employees for thinking critically while also making helpful suggestions?

What the Experts Say

Having a team that’s quick to identify problems and voice potential obstacles is not necessarily a bad thing. “Intellectually honest resistance” to a new idea is worth airing, according to Liane Davey, professional speaker and author of the book The Good Fight. But when your team is overly focused on finding problems instead of solving them, it can be detrimental to productivity and morale. “Talent is attracted to possibility, opportunity, and agency,” she says. “You will lose great people if your team is always talking about why it can’t, rather than about how it can.” And yet, says Heidi Grant, social psychologist and author of the book Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You, the best teams balance the two. As the manager, your job is to “create an environment that allows for both creativity and analytical thinking” in order to come up with solutions that are informed by reality. Here’s how.

Recognize underlying issues.

For starters, you need to appreciate that your team’s tendencies are not unusual.

Reflect on your goal.

You need to be clear about the changes you’re looking for from your team.

Talk to your team.

Explain that you want the team to do a better job of “looking for alternate routes,” rather than dwelling on the details of a problem.

Set new norms.

Changing your team’s culture requires getting people on board with new ways of thinking and speaking.

Role model.

In order to inspire your team to think more creatively about solving problems, others need to see you doing it.

Bring in new information.

Using external information to trigger creative conversations. For instance, at your next team meeting, you might say, “I read an interesting article about a trend in our industry. How do you think this will affect us? What opportunities does this trend create? If this trend continues, what might we need to pay attention to? What hard choices might we need to make?”

Deal with challenges productively.

When you encounter resistance to a new idea, it’s important to listen — but also to make sure that team members’ fault-finding does not monopolize the conversation.

Reward positive behaviors.

When you observe team members seeking to solve problems productively, you need to “publicly affirm that they’re doing the right thing.”

This post is written by Rebecca Knight.

Original post link: https://hbr.org/2021/04/is-your-team-solving-problems-or-just-identifying-them

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