IT’S not necessarily true that people are your greatest assets. If that were true, the organization with the biggest head count would automatically win. Your real assets are people who know how to solve problems… and solve them better than your competitors.
Early when I took over my first plant, I had this maintenance technician who came to me and said, “Sir Nelson, we have a problem in Machine X”. Then he described the problem, paused, and waited for me to give him the answer.
Instead, I replied, “So?”
I think he was a bit taken aback. As he kept on explaining, I kept pushing back with “So?” At some point, he ran out of words to talk about the problem and began drifting to solutions. “Maybe, Sir, we should try out…”
I asked him, “That’s a good idea. What else can we do?” As the technician expressed his ideas, I kept asking “What else?” until I was satisfied. I patted him on the shoulder and said, “Good! Go ahead!”
I did that because if I were to solve every problem at the plant, I would quickly burn out. And that’s assuming I have all the answers. But you don’t need to have all the answers. You need to know where to find the best answers.
I believe that most people have great ideas just waiting to come out. Therefore, an often overlooked role of the leader is to help his followers come up with solutions better than his. In today’s red-ocean environment, a can-do workforce is your true competitive advantage.
When you think about it, practically every business issue is a problem to be solved. It can be about hiring good people, increasing sales, or leading innovation. Within an industry, chances are the players make commodity products, have access to the same technology, and the one with the deepest pocket wins. If you are one of those players, you will want to be different, be innovative, or be cost-efficient. Each one involves a set of problems to be solved.
Usually, the problem-solver is the executive, the manager, the technology supplier, or the consultant. But what if everyone in that organization pitches in? What if the machine operator, the lobby receptionist, or the accounting clerk can see the problem with fresh eyes and offer solutions that no one has thought of before? Instead of people doing the same old thing or, worse, saying something can’t be done, they are saying “We can do it. Here’s how…”
To his credit, nowadays whenever that technician comes to me with a problem, he also brings along recommendations.
In the end, it’s about empowering the people to solve problems, rather than doing all by yourself. Now that’s a solution worth pursuing!
For more insights, please visit my website www.nelsontdy.com or contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org