Problem-solve your way to success!By Evans Munyuki – June 26th 2011Part 1 - The Idea:Whether you aim to become a truly successful manager, a truly successful executive, or a trulysuccessful business owner, one important principle for you to embrace is the principle ofproblem solving.The world of commerce revolves around the reality of problem solving.The reality of life is that it is full of problems. Some people don‟t know how to solve theirproblems, or they don‟t have the time, energy, resources, expertise, or desire to solve their ownproblems – so they often choose to pay someone else to solve problems for them.Examples include the following: 1. A pedestrian who gets tired of walking may choose to catch a taxi cab. The taxicab driver exists in that role because he knows that pedestrians have problems which he can solve. 2. A hungry person may choose to buy food from a restaurant. The restaurant owner exists in that role because she knows that hungry people have problems which she can solve. 3. An employer may choose to hire the skills and expertise of an employee. The smart employee exists in that role because she knows that employers have problems which she can solve. 4. A customer may choose to purchase a product (e.g. a car). The smart sales person exists in that role because he knows that customers have problems (car purchase decisions) which she can help solve.The sooner you tap into this universal principle of problem solving, the sooner you can reachyour career goals.Managers have pain and they have monkeys on their shoulders. They are always looking for thattrusted person who is willing to make their pain go away. Executives have pain, and they arealways looking for that manager or self-driven employee who is willing to work the extra 30minutes and help them solve the problems and make their pain go away. That becomes oneless thing for the manager or executive to worry about it.Do you want to fast-path your way into a leadership, management, senior management, orexecutive role? Well, I suggest one of the secret recipes which can make a huge difference:Be the person who is willing to take on the projects no one else wants!
Be the person who has a strong bias for execution. Yes, analysis is good, but analysis paralysis isnot – so get on with it. Understand the mission, do your homework (analysis), then Just Do It!(execution) Be the person who is willing to understand those issues which keep your boss awake at night,and problem-solve your way to success.Work on projects which matter most to your boss. As you do this, you will get visibility, you willmake a meaningful impact on your manager‟s results, and you will inevitably make ameaningful impact on your boss‟s boss‟s results, and your company‟s results.If you “repeatedly” and “consistently” demonstrate this behavior, your manager or executive willnotice you for this, and he or she will learn to turn to you when she has problems that needsolving or projects that need to be completed. You will become a trusted partner.The inverse of this principle is also true. The best way to NOT grow your career is achieved bydoing the reverse of this… i.e. If you always bring your boss problems with no suggestedsolutions, your boss is NOT going to think of you as the next management or executivecandidate. If your boss always suggests ideas for you to try and if you always knock her ideasdown without suggesting alternative ideas for execution, that is also just as bad.Taking on special projects for your manager or executive (and doing them well) is one of thebest ways of adding true value and positioning yourself for career growth.Problem-solve your way to success! – Part 2Take on any project, no matter how small, as long as it is meaningful to your manager orexecutive. However, I am not suggesting that you do things which are totally out of characterwith your role. This is not about making your boss coffee – this is about delivering results whichmatter – results which impact your company‟s output and performance through small projects.Quite naturally, as you do well with the small projects, you will be asked to work on biggerprojects, and eventually you will be asked to manage a small team, then a small department,then a small business... If management is not your cup of tea, no problem, you can excel intoyour vertical areas of skill and expertise while growing your contribution and ultimately yourearnings without necessarily having to worry about managing people.Please note that this principle is not about kissing up, this has nothing to do with office politics, orplaying the system - this is about “genuinely” adding value, gaining credibility, and gettingknown as a person who serves, a person who delivers the goods; the person who goes the extramile consistently serving and makes a material difference.
This is not a „get-promoted-quick‟ approach, but is rather a „deliver-value-quick‟ approachwhich will inevitably lead to acknowledgement and rewards over time.When everyone else is complaining and raising the 10 reasons why your manager‟s requestcannot be done, be the one person who says, “Got it boss – consider it done.” And thenproceed and deliver the goods.Problem solving is all about adding real value. It is about „value creation.‟ As you add real value,real rewards will be sure to find you (either in your current company, or in your future company).This is a law of nature which works so well you‟ll soon be smiling as your responsibility profilebegins to change and as your manager or executive begins to notice you as an up-and-comer.A key requirement for this principle to work well is that you must do your normal job well. Inaddition to that, you then accept or look for existing problems you can help solve using smallprojects. Notice that I said “look for existing problems,” and I did NOT say “create problems!!!” If you keep creating problems, solving them is hardly going to position you as a candidate forpromotion – in-fact, it may qualify you as a candidate for performance management withnegative potential outcomes.If you do your normal job well and then you accept small projects (problems to be solved) andyou do them well, you are sending a key message: you are actually saying that your normal jobis too small and you can take on more. So your boss gives you more. You do it well, and youposition yourself well for greater responsibility a.k.a promotion!Promotion does not go to the person who is swamped, overwhelmed, missing deadlines, makingcommitments she doesn‟t keep, and is not satisfying his customers. Promotion goes to the personwho figures out how to turn his overwhelming turbulent storm of work requests into a gentlebreeze of delivery.Problem-solve your way to success! – Part 3Let go so you can grow! DelegatePromotion goes to the manager who quickly learns the power of letting go and allowing othersto take on small projects themselves so they can also have an opportunity to do well and sothey can also have the opportunity to shine while taking some load off the manager – Inmanagement theory, this is known as delegation.For the empowering smart manager, this is known as giving your teams an opportunity to alsowork on small projects so they too can grow. Do you see the beauty of this principle and how itworks? It gives everyone the opportunity to grow their contributions – gently building anecosystem of high-performance – a high-performing team.
You might say, “But I don‟t have anyone reporting to me, so I have no one to delegate to.” Noproblem… Find efficiency improvement opportunities, productivity improvement opportunities,and process improvement opportunities which will allow you to turn your overwhelming turbulentstorm of work requests into a gentle breeze of delivery. Innovate. Create productivity-enhancingprocess optimization and use technology to automate repetitive tasks. If you do things manuallyon paper, find ways of using technology to automate and streamline.Firstly, this will become the first project you solve (small project) which will gain your manager‟sattention and it will free you up so you can take on the problems which matter most to yourmanager as you build your pathway to success.So the next time you want a promotion, try a different approach. Instead of going to your bossand asking for more money or a fancy job title, go to your boss and tell her you have your jobunder control and tell her that you want to make a greater contribution to her organization andher success. Then ask her to give you „any additional work‟ which allows you to address one ofthe areas that is keeping her awake at night. Solve problems. Make her look good. Be the windbeneath her wings. As she does well and rises, so will you.This totally goes against the natural tendency of criticizing bosses because they are not solvingcertain problems – instead of spending your energy in criticism over coffee and smoke breaks,take that knowledge of the areas where your boss or company is weak and offer to drive a smallproject to resolve it. You will make the world better for your boss, you will make the world betterfor his critics, and you will make the world better for yourself as you build your pathway topromotion.When others see problems, you see the opportunity to make a contribution. The road topromotion is paved by your ability to spot problems, to put on a refreshing positive attitude, andto solve them for your boss and clients.Problem-solve your way to success! Many people will reject this principle – no worries, that‟s theirloss and your gain! And besides, if everybody does it, it won‟t be as much of a differentiator.So, before everyone else catches onto this, go on – identify problems, drive small projects whichwill give you quick wins. Problem-solve your way to success!Yours in the trenches,Evans Munyuki, MPM, Cert.Dir, ICEPMCIO, ABSA Business BankEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org