Why every manager should be aware of this pitfall and resist temptation.
As long as everything runs satisfactorily in your company or team and the steamer is on course, the crew can cope even without it’s captain. However, as soon as an „iceberg“ appears and there is no solution to the problem using their own resources, the next level up will ask for clarification. This is the moment when the CEO’s phone rings or the e-mail with priority „high“ shows up in the mailbox. After all, one of the main tasks for managers is to assume responsibility for troubleshooting. In addition, management positions are not endowed relatively high out of charity.
When the alarm bell sounds
However as an executive you probably won’t just sit and wait as the fire brigade, always ready on call and pass the time until the next emergency call with drinking coffee, crossword puzzles or billiard games. But you have other activities and appointments on your daily program. If then the alarm call sounds from employee side, this almost always means a disturbance of your own workflow. If personal conflicts are also involved with employees or customers, such a disturbance threatens to turn into a tangible and thus incalculable time problem. It is understandable: you want to get rid of this disturbing interruption as quickly as possible in order to be able to return to your original tasks afterwards. You probably know this impulse from your own experience.
Resist the first impulse
And this is exactly where the next pitfall for stumbling over is waiting for you: It is true that managers in particular are interested in fast, cost-effective and constructive problem solutions. But there are no simple solutions for complex problems. And if it should be, it’s mostly a long and troublesome journey to get there, nevertheless. The more complex the problem is, the more conflict parties are involved or the more diverse the interests, the more complex the search for solutions becomes. In most cases, this is a triviality that all those affected are basically fully aware of. At this moment, therefore, resist your own impulse to reach out for a quick and easy solution. Even if everyone’s eyes are now full of expectation. There is also a desire on the part of employees for a quick clarification so that everyone can return to work quickly and unencumbered. But unfortunately it doesn’t work that easily – even if everyone involved would like it that way.
Enduring the lack of a solution
The most important thing for a professional approach now is to get the conflict or problem clearly on the table. This alone is often a tedious business, because it is about working out the different points of view and perspectives. This takes effort and time. Nevertheless, in this phase it is first and foremost „only“ a matter of listening, understanding and enduring the current lack of solutions. However, this is a great challenge for all concerned and is therefore by no means always kept up. The temptation is too great to throw oneself at the first best solutions and to stick to them with all hopes. In most cases, however, only a closer look reveals how complex the matter really is. This is also obvious, because if it were a simple problem, your employees would probably have been able to deal with it long ago without your help. In this respect, the mere fact that you are bothered by this is an indication of the complexity of the problem.
When the abysses open up
However, there is always the danger that, if you take a closer look, the avalanche will really get rolling. Then suddenly human and factual abysses open up with unimagined depth and often the mood even changes into helplessness or resignation. Some people would have preferred not to open the barrel in the first place. Now is the big hour for the captain to prove leadership qualities and earn the respect and recognition of his or her team. It is important to remain undaunted and confident in the process, trusting in your competence and that of your employees, and to remain on board together.
Only when the actual problem has been clearly worked out and all participants feel sufficiently heard – and above all understood – you can work together to find a solution for the problem. Paradoxically, it is then usually very quick to find constructive solutions and agree on the next steps. To make the right decision in really difficult situations, „The Ethics Compass“ from my manager’s toolbox might be helpful for you.
Fortunately managers do not have to take care of everything themselves, but can (and should) make use of internal or external help. The only important thing is that the responsibility for solving the problem stays with the boss – until the next alarm bell rings.