My best boss and mentor declared this whenever someone tried to pass a problem to him; he would have nothing of it.
He was different from many of his peers who felt obligated to be the problem solver and therefore “force” his direct reports to depend on him.
As a direct report, I wanted to learn about business, and solving problems was the best way to do it. Having my boss provide all the answers didn’t help teach me the business and it certainly didn’t enable me to grow.
This was his approach:
- He would insist that our problem discussion was focused on the SOLUTION I thought would work.
- He insisted that I identify a number of potential options with the pros and cons of each.
- He expected I did my homework in terms of the CUSTOMER VALUE each option would create. This was the number one criteria he used to judge the ranking of the options I presented.
- He probed each option; asked me tons of questions; took a copious amount of notes.
- He asked me to consider our discussion for 24 hours before deciding on the solution I thought was best.
- He directed me to advise him of the direction I was taking.
- I was held accountable for the impact of my decision. I had to report back to him in 30-60 days on the results.
That was it. I defined the problem; outlined a range of potential solutions with the pros and cons of each; he added value through his questions; I made the call and was held accountable.
I learned, felt respected; developed leadership skills, and mentored others on the same approach.