Master Yoda Are You??

Yes, we know, you are brilliant.  You have lots of experience and great ideas.  Likely your employees know this, too.  We as managers are generally good at problem solving, and hopefully this is a prerequisite to any management position.  But being the problem-solver is not always possible, or even the best strategy.Charalambos Vlachoutsicos is coauthor of Behind the Factory Walls: Decision Making in Soviet and U.S. Enterprises and for 30 years worked and then managed his family trading business.  In Harvard Business Review, Vlachoutsicos shares the story of a warehouse manager he once employed, Spyros.   Vlachoutsicos went to his warehouse to determine if there was space for one of their new products.  Spyros compulsively, without any calculations, proposed to make space by moving existing stacks closer together.  He quickly ordered his staff to begin moving items and there was mounting, silent tension as they complied.  The staff was concerned about maneuvering the lift trucks but Spyros pressed on with increasingly unrealistic solutions and a vicious cycle was in play.  Finally, Vlachoutsicos intervened and suggested creating a team to produce a solution.  He then took a chastened Spyros to lunch and encouraged him that admitting a need for help can be easier and more effective than providing instant solutions.  Spyros was unable to admit ignorance and was eventually replaced.

We must see ourselves as more as a gatherer of information and solutions instead of the sage on the hill.  Employees are much more motivated to be problem solvers if they actually have a chance to solve problems.  This means not providing all of the answers and instead asking for contributions and solutions.  Have you asked your employees to solve a problem for you lately?  You might be surprised at the result.


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