Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Approach Problems in a Professional, Logical and Systematic Manner

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A critical element of business is building relationships that ultimately result in partnerships. As all relationships have problems, the successful employee knows how to handle these issues efficiently and professionally in order to keep relationships productive. Constructive interaction resolves problems to everyone’s satisfaction, which builds good will and trust. The resulting solid relationships can provide the companies with the elusive edge in highly competitive markets.

Many employees are placed on the defensive when faced with a problem. Rather than diagnosing a problem logically, they react emotionally.

There are several types of problems that confront employees, many of which stem from deficiencies in the performance of a product or service. Customers can also create fictitious problems in an effort to gain an advantage in their business relationships. Additionally, there are perceived problems: situations where nothing is actually amiss, but for one reason or another the customer perceives a problem. While any issue—internal or external, real or perceived—can be trying, in all cases the employee must maintain his or her composure and approach the problem in a professional, logical and systematic manner.

People realize that in an imperfect world they will encounter problems. However, it is not the situation itself that tends to cause difficulties, but how the employee reacts to it. Surveys have indicated that a rapid, helpful response and resolution to an issue can strongly bind a customer to the company and employees to each other, whereas a sloppy and slow response can result not only in losing valued employees and customers, but also in turning them into activists that will do anything to undermine the business.

The next time managers are faced with a problem, they can follow the systematic approach outlined below, bearing in mind that speed is indispensable to problem solving.

Identify the Problem

Employees and customers will no doubt bring problems to light without being prompted. The identification of an issue allows the manager to begin a diagnosis and gauge the potential impact of the situation. This step affords the opportunity to establish the importance of the situation and determine how fast to respond.

Define Parameters

Once the issue is identified, it is up to the manager to distinguish the real cause of the problem. Many complaints are either symptomatic of a larger problem or point to other unresolved departmental issues; still others are wholly unrelated to the company’s product or service. The manager will need to define the problem by probing and asking pertinent questions in order to discover needs, expectations and the ultimate reasons behind the problem.

Qualify the Problem

When qualifying, the manager is determining where responsibility for the problem lies. Often when an employee or customer voices a complaint, they place the blame on parties that have little or no responsibility for the problem.

In terms of accounts, a flooring retailer, recounting the instance of a customer coming into his store and vocally complaining about the carpet she bought and its installation, disclosed that upon further examination it was found the customer had purchased the carpeting from a cut-rate competitor and had it installed by an incompetent handyman. She wasn’t a customer, but felt compelled to tell someone, and the only one available was this retailer. It wasn’t his problem, but he was able to turn this ugly situation into a new and happy account.

Quantify the Problem

When quantifying the problem, the manager is defining the size and scope of the situation and zeroing in on the ultimate impact the issue will have on the business. For example, a small order of a critical product can literally shut down a production line. It is up to the manager to identify the extent of the problem and the resulting impact on their employees’ and/or customers’ situation. All too often employees minimize what appears to be a small problem, but in fact has a significant impact. Managers must be careful when dealing with such issues, as how they are handled can ultimately determine future outcomes.

Examine the Problem

During the examining phase, the manager is identifying the source and potential causes of the problem. Decision makers need to examine what has happened, why, and who is responsible for the problem. The process should not be a fault-finding expedition, but a search for the genuine causes of the problem.

In terms of customers, examination includes identifying whether issues such as late delivery, a manufacturing defect, faulty materials or a lack of education caused the problem. The goal is to determine where the ultimate problem lies as well as examine the options that are available to resolve the immediate problem.

Resolve

Once causes have been identified, the problem can be solved to all parties’ satisfaction. Managers who attempt to minimize difficulties at this critical juncture are only hurting themselves. A successful company will do anything to correct a problem, whether internal or external, in a satisfactory and timely manner. Any extra expense will be readily recouped in future productivity and business; failure to follow through with an adequate resolution will build considerable barriers to productivity. The time and money required to thoroughly address a problem are minimal when compared to the productivity gains and repeat business represented by happy employees and customers.

Report Findings

Findings should be reported to senior management so that the cause of the problem can be remedied and a record made in order to avoid its recurrence. The manager’s findings should not spark recriminations, but positive changes within the company that will prevent this type of situation from arising again. These adaptations should allow the company to grow, prosper and thrive while making the manager’s job easier.

No one wants to have to continually solve the same problem with different employees or accounts, as this ultimately undermines the manager’s credibility and the reputation of the company.

Related:

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Excerpt: Problem Solving: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

February 13, 2013 at 10:50 am

Resolving Negative Employee Behaviors Takes the Right Solution

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The easiest and most obvious solution to a behavioral problem is for the manager to arbitrarily pick a solution that he or she deems appropriate to resolving the problem. However, this does not take into account the motivational issues that can affect the final outcome.

A poorly chosen solution can compound rather than solve a problem, especially if the employee is resistant to the idea.

When confronted with an employee’s behavioral or attitude problem, the manager has several choices to make. If the problem is serious enough, termination is an option; yet with the high cost of recruiting and training, this may not be the best option.

However, dealing with negative behaviors and attitudes present sticky motivational problems of their own.

There may be resentment on the part of the employee concerning any solution presented to them. Often the best approach is to involve the employee in the development of the solution. When the employee is involved, they gain ownership of the solution, which insures that they will actively and successfully be involved in its implementation.

Additionally, they are privy to the process and see that a solution is arrived at in a fair and just manner, not arbitrarily. These steps minimize the motivational problems associated with the resolution of the problem and make it easier for the manager to work with the employee during the implementation phases.

Arriving at an appropriate and effective solution to remedy negative behaviors and attitudes need not take an inordinate amount of time. However, it should be done in a systematic manner so that the employee is actively involved in the process, can readily see how the solution has been arrived at, and understands it serves the interests of all involved.

The following steps should be adhered to during the resolution process:

Brainstorming

The most practical approach to developing a workable and effective solution to a problem is through brainstorming. In these instances the manager is limited to brainstorming ideas and solutions with the employee who has the problem and with other managers and superiors who are aware of the problem.

This problem solving approach produces specific benefits by identifying all possible solutions from every perspective. Additionally, it includes the employee in the resolution of the problem. Empowering them by giving him or her ownership of the solution, gives the employee a vested interest, realizing a successful outcome.

Both the manager and employee should list every possible solution—even those that appear unlikely or impractical. Nothing should be dismissed without careful consideration; otherwise a negative atmosphere as opposed to an open-minded approach to a solution will be created.

Selection Criteria

Obviously not every choice brainstormed will be practical or feasible. However, before any idea is discarded, both the manager and employee should identify the criteria that will be used to evaluate each possible solution.

Criteria should be established according to specific parameters that result in the successful resolution of the problem. These might include the cost, timeliness, time frames, effectiveness and total resolution of the problem so that it does not occur again. Other criteria can be selected that assist both parties in achieving the overall goal.

Bracketing Choices

Once the manager and employee have agreed upon the criteria, it is an easy task to filter all of the choices developed through brainstorming and to bracket the specific options meeting the selection criteria. All other options are eliminated from consideration.

Since the employee is actively participating in this process, they can see the logic of the decisions that will impact them, which eliminates resistance to the final resolution.

Prioritize and Select the Best Option

The bracketing of possible solutions will typically identify several options to resolve a problem. Both the manager and employee should reach a consensus and prioritize each of the solutions in order of their effectiveness.

Invariably, the employee will not wish to see specific options chosen since they are not in their best interest or will take more effort than they are willing to invest. This is why a consensus should be reached as to what will ultimately constitute the best choices for a solution.

The final step is to choose the best solution to the problem, one that satisfies both management and the employee while solving the problem.

Related:

Six Ways to Turn a Poor Performer Around

Unresolved Conflict is Corrosive to Leadership

Seven Proactive Steps to Take to Deal With a Problem Employee

Excerpt: Negative Workplace Attitudes (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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