As leaders, we are bombarded with constant change and the challenges that surface as a result of the change. How we deal with these issues brought about by change determines the true value we bring to the organization.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every problem."
This is also the mindset of Top 10% Leaders. These leaders are able to effectively communicate the issue in a way that helps them obtain the necessary resources or approval to begin moving toward a solution.
The following process will help you effectively communicate to your boss, other stakeholders, or even your customers when faced with a challenge.
1. Describe the problem by providing a broad overview of the problem, and specifically the impact it has on your team and the goals of the company.
For example, the XYZ project we have been working on has uncovered some shortcomings in the way we track costs. I have a few ideas that I would like to try with your help and the help of our finance team. With the right approach, we can increase our project margin by 3 more points.
2. Identify your solution or approach by explaining how you attempted to solve the problem. Discuss what you learned from your initial work. This is a good time to give your boss some options. Define each option with the positives and negatives; outline the risks. Most importantly, explain your thought process. It is important that your boss understands that you’ve thought this through.
For example, if we can get everyone together from finance and operations at the beginning of the project, we can highlight the areas with the biggest risk and have our project manager be more aware of where we can experience higher costs and reduced margin. Another possibility is to conduct bi-weekly meetings to review cost issues before they get out of control and unable to make the necessary corrections.”
3. Explain the potential impact of your solution. This can be the impact to the company in financial terms or the impact to other people. Also, make sure you explain how your solution is aligned with the goals of the company.
For example, “our approach to improving our margin is right in line with the company’s current initiatives and I don’t believe it is going to greatly increase the workload to any individual or other teams.”
4. Discuss the benefits in specific and measurable terms. It is a good idea to have evaluated the idea and present the results you obtained. At this point, it isn’t all that important how you will implement the idea or necessary to communicate the specific features of the solution.
For example, we have tried out this new approach on the last two projects and found that with some minor tweaks to our finance department bookkeeping practices and how the project managers communicate with the field personnel, we can gain the two to three points of additional margin, a 25% improvement.
5. See your idea through by taking responsibility for the outcome. Your boss will appreciate your commitment to the organization. At this point, you can collaborate with your manager to develop a specific action plan so that the organization can take advantage of the opportunity you’ve presented.
For example, if you're okay with this plan, I would like to move forward with it and I have a backup plan if it turns out to not be as attractive as we think.”
Whenever you get into a situation where a problem seems to be insurmountable, don’t panic.
Instead, begin to look for ways to overcome the problem and present those ideas to your manager. They will appreciate you taking charge of the situation and not dropping problems on their lap. Chances are that you will figure out a way around the problem and convert the problem into a real opportunity for you.
Can you think of an issue you're dealing with now that you can take this approach?