Eight managers and a senior VP sit around the table, this table of Eager Beavers, Vacationers and Hostages. What will prevent them from participating? What will drive them to contribute with enthusiasm?
“Houston, we have a problem!!” booms the senior VP. Enter FEAR stage right. The VP just raised the spectre of fear. Here’s the question, “Does the way you state the problem have anything to do with the way people approach the solution?”
I could see the Face of Fear as I looked around the room. The silent responses were predictable. The darting eyes spoke volumes. Beneath the whisper level, emotions pounded.
- It wasn’t my fault, (was it?)
- It couldn’t have been my fault, (could it?)
- It was supposed to happen that way, (wasn’t it?)
- Since it wasn’t my fault, it must have been Tim’s fault (right?)
- I didn’t approve that, (did I?)
Multiply those responses by the eight managers and then calculate what has been accomplished so far. What headway has been made toward solving the problem in Houston? Worse yet, if no headway has been made, what direction is everyone looking?
Does the way you state the problem have anything to do with the way people approach the solution? The mindset around the table is looking for blame, a scapegoat, something, anything to deflect responsibility for the problem in Houston. Everyone is checking out, the quicker the better, last one standing holds the bag. Disengage, no eye contact, pass the buck, Chuck.
As the Manager, you don’t know who has the idea that is going to save the day. You cannot afford to have a single person disengage from the meeting. You need full engagement from everyone in the room for the entire meeting. One idea, one phrase, one twisted word may trigger the solution.
Does the way you state the problem have anything to do with the way people approach the solution? Take the problem and create a positive question that points toward the solution.
IWWCW. In what way can we increase sales in our Houston territory? Take the problem and create a positive question that points toward the solution. Now, look around the room. You will find positive engagement. It is impossible not to. (Sorry, for the double negative.)
A bit of science. The human mind cannot “not answer” a question. (Another double negative.) The way the human brain is wired, when presented with a question, it is impossible for the mind to do anything other than search for the answer. If you want to engage the mind, ask it a question. If you want to engage a team, ask them a question. If you want to engage a team to solve a problem, state the problem as a postive question that points toward the solution. In what way can we…?