Deliver solutions, not problems

July 25, 2020

COMMON employees dump problems on their boss’s lap and expect the boss to “handle” them. But extraordinary employees deliver solutions. Don’t be known as a prophet of doom such that your boss gets tense when he sees you entering his office. Rather than merely present facts and figures that trumpet the problem, try to propose action plans to resolve it. Here’s how:

Care for your employer. If you don’t care about your company, you will be content just to toss dire tidings to your boss. Some employees even hide problems from their boss until it’s very hard to solve. But an employee with a heart for the company will also have a passion to help.

Go beyond the “What’s in it for me?” attitude. Even if you are motivated by self-interest, remember that if the company prospers, you stand to prosper too. Stand out from the herd as someone who can be counted on when things get bumpy.

Create alternatives. We may not be geniuses, but we can train ourselves to think outside the box. Various techniques aim to generate solutions such as brainstorming, mind-mapping and Bono’s six thinking hats, to name just three. Challenge beliefs regarding possibilities and necessities. For example, if someone says, “We cannot do that!”, a creative person will ask, “What would happen if we did?” Focus on outcome, not process. Strangely, people tend to stick to routines which have time and again resulted in failure.

Consult with others. At this stage, you are probably unsure of your proposal. Perhaps you need more data to check if it is workable. For example, your plan may involve some goods, manpower or production capacities that are simply unavailable. Perhaps you need to sound off your scheme to a co-worker who’s been around the company far longer than you. If you have a mentor other than your boss, tap him too.

Still, draw up with a solution as best as you can. Then, consult the final audience: your boss. Don’t be afraid that your boss will reject or ridicule your proposal. I had instances when my boss came up with far better solutions. Then I leave his office, slap my forehead and say to myself, “Now why didn’t I think of that?” (That is why he’s the boss and not you.) You may not be the smartest person in the company. But after learning from your boss, you have just become smarter.

Consider long-term. Many times we are just “fire-fighting,” that is, solving the problems on hand. However, we usually forget to dig up the root causes which, if left festering, will only spawn similar or new problems in the future. Be pro-active. Identify these root causes, propose corrective measures or develop safeguards. The present headache can be merely a symptom of the real malady such as poorly developed systems, low morale, or an inherent defect in the product or strategy.

Once you gain a reputation of being a crack problem-solver, you create value for your employer and for yourself. In due time, such wisdom and hard work will pay off in terms of career advancement.

More career tips can be found in my three books Your First Job: A Practical Guide for Success, Your Career Roadmap: How to Get the Job You Want and Love the One You Hate!, and Soaring High: Your Flight Plan to Your Best Career Ever! All available in major bookstores nationwide. Please visit my website or contact me via