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Manager Mechanics Blog, Written by Eric P. Bloom
This blog is a combination of Eric's ITworld blogs, Gatehouse Media columns, Techwell postes and original works
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Apr 25, 2017 Be the Manager and Chief Problem Solver

If companies had no business problems and every employee knew exactly what to do without instruction, then companies wouldn't need managers. Yes, that's right, they wouldn't need us. That said, next time your department has a problem that you must address or an employee needs your assistance, smile inside, from ear to ear, and know that your company needs you.

We all know that managers perform other department functions, such as defining department vision, defining and overseeing department processes, writing employee performance reviews, budgeting, and other related functions. A manager, however, truly earns his/her pay by solving problems. These problems could be anything, such as:
  • Dealing with employee performance issues
  • Needing to improve efficiency because the volume of work is going up and the department budget is going down
  • The company phone system went down and you have to respond today to major issues at a customer site
  • Your best employee will be out of the office for three weeks due to an unforeseen illness and he/she was the only one who knew how to perform an important business task

This is a very small list, that could be infinitely expanded, of the issues that managers around the country and around the world deal with day-in and day-out.

As the column title alludes, you can't just be the manager of the group; you must also be your department's Chief Problem Solver (CPS). This, of course, is not a real title, even though in some companies it probably feels like it should be.

To be an effective problem solver for your department, consider the following:
  1. When your employees come to you with problems, don't shoot the messenger. If you do, your employees will stop coming to you for advice, because they don't want to get into trouble. This causes two problems; first, you will not know what issues exist with your department, second, you will not be involved in correcting/resolving them.
  2. Look at problems within your department as an opportunity, rather than as just another mountain to climb. This mental headset will help you feel energized, rather than demoralized by department issues.
  3. Gain a working knowledge of various problem solving analysis and resolution techniques, such as brainstorming, Ishikawa Diagramming, and Mind Mapping. These types of techniques can provide you with a strong foundation and process to find a problem's root cause and develop effective solutions.
  4. Instruct your team, that when they bring issues to your attention, they should also bring you potential solutions. This will help you enhance the problem solving capabilities of your team and in many cases provide you with great potential solutions.
  5. Empower your team to make appropriate level decisions on their own, rather than getting you involved in every small department program and decision. This will help grow the decision making abilities of your staff members and give you more time to deal with larger, more important, department issues and general managerial tasks.
  6. If your department, by the nature of its work, has standard issues which commonly occur, such as common customer complaints, develop standardized problem solving processes to handle the issue. This will help assure that common problems will be resolved in a consistent manner and your department will have the ability to deal with them quickly and efficiently.

Adopting these types of solutions can help you truly become the Chief Problem Solver for your department. The ability to quickly and effectively solve problems can not only help your department run more efficiently, but it can help you build the reputation of being a great problem solver. This reputation in turn, can enhance your job performance as a manager today and help you get promoted tomorrow.

The primary advice and takeaways from today's column is to know that:
  • If companies didn't have business problems, they wouldn't need managers.
  • A manager truly earns his/her pay by solving problems.
  • Quickly and effectively solving problems within your department can enhance your job performance today and help you get promoted tomorrow.

This blog is an excerpt from my weekly nationally syndicated column with GateHouse News Service. My new columns can be found in GateHouse Media publications throughout the United States.

Until next time, manage well, manage smart, and continue to grow.

Eric Bloom
President and CTO

Manager Mechanics, LLC


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