The Problem Problem

You’re an entrepreneurial startup CEO problem-solving machine.  You take on and dispose of issues faster than Kim Kardashian goes through husbands. As soon as you sniff a problem it’s disappeared faster than a politician’s promise after election day. Which can be a good thing or…. at times could be the problem in itself.

How can solving problems create problems?  Here’s a real life and all too common example:  I’m talking to a crackerjack, multi-profitable-exited, serial CEO and he lays out a problem he’s trying to solve with his partner.  You see his partner has certain financial needs, craves security and other non-entrepreneur-like issues. This CEO listened to his partner, thanked her for voicing her concern and then started working on the problem for her.

Great, right? No… not so much. Because what just took place was a game of hot potato. You see as standard operating procedure Mr. CEO accepted Ms. Partner’s problems as his own.  Just picked it up, put it in his problem-solving queue and committed to spit out an answer in the near future. My advice, give that potato back to Ms. Partner and have her come back with a solution.  Instead of wasting cycles on her need for security and more income, give her some parameters like:

“Right now it would be difficult for us to afford that. What can you do to help pay for that?  Why don’t you come to me with some possible solutions and lets talk.”

See what just happened there? We just freed up some CEO brain-cycles by passing back the potato.  Now here’s the good things that could happen.

    1. Ms. Partner might just drop it meaning it really wasn’t that important.
    2. Ms. Partner will analyze the situation, have a better understanding of the issue and learn to be a problem solver instead of creator.
    3. Ms. Partner will buy-in to the solution and take some ownership in the outcome.

Or Ms. Partner can come up with a totally ridiculous, unrealistic solution in which case you have a real problem…. is Ms. Partner really a partner or an employee and do you need an employee?

Look, just because we are fixers doesn’t mean we should fix everything.  If you want to improve the capability and learn to trust your team….. next time you’re handed the potato problem, don’t give into instinct, take a breath, and hand that potato back.