I tend to think about things for a bit before sharing with others. I also really like to fix things. This combination can sometimes lead to jumping into solution mode really fast when I’m discussing with others. This happened yesterday when I realized the person I was having a conversation with didn’t even agree on the same problem I was coming to him with. And I was already talking about potential solutions! Our conversation didn’t get far and I had to back up and start again.

Since a big part of my job is coming up with solutions, I think it’s important to get it right. It’s also important to know when solutions are necessary. I jotted these notes down based on my conversation yesterday and others that I’ve learned from in the past:

When someone is coming to me with a problem:

  1. Listen.
  2. Give them a very quick high level overview of what they are saying so you know you have it right.
  3. Ask if it’s something they want help with solving or if they are just venting. If they are just venting, move on to other topics.
  4. If they want a solution: Agree on the problem(s) they would like to solve. Contribute additional info and suggestions if needed.
  5. Ask them for their thoughts on how to solve. Add your suggestions and agree on a path forward.
  6. Follow though and follow up.

When I’m going to someone with a problem I’m observing that directly effects me:

  1. Clearly communicate the problem from my perspective.
  2. Ask if they understand to get on the same page with them about problem I’m trying to solve.
  3. See if they agree it’s a problem to solve. If it is, ask the other person for their thoughts on how to solve. Add your suggestions.
  4. Agree on a path forward. Make it clear who will do what.
  5. Follow though and follow up.