Do you have employees or managers in your organization that seem to always be critical or negative about every decision? I recently ran into someone like this in a meeting with one of our clients.We had made some changes to our production scheduling and our logistics. I went around and asked two or three of the production workers if the changes that we’ve recently implemented were positive or not. It’s important to get the opinion of the people who are actually doing the work.
And universally, there was enthusiasm. “Oh, yes, our scheduling is much better. We’re caught up now. Our customers are much happier, and the logistics are much smoother.”
There was one employee, however, that I hesitated to ask because it seems he is always finding the problem rather than the solution, the obstacle rather than the opportunity.
Do you know anyone like that in your organization?
But I went and asked him what he thinks about the changes. And sure enough, as if on cue, he had some criticisms. “Things could be better, and actually, it’s revealed some other concerns.”
So I asked him, “What do you see to be the issue?”
He told me and we had a good conversation.
I brought the owner to him at the end of the day, and I said to the owner, “You know, your employee has made a suggestion and here’s what I would like to suggest. Why don’t we place him in charge of this particular issue and allow him to be the owner and fixer of that, and every week, when I stop by, I will check on his progress.”
By this time, our critic was quiet and beginning to realize that now he can’t complain about the problem anymore. He now has to be the solution. What’s the lesson here?
Don’t walk on eggshells with the critics in your organization. Their perspective is valuable. It’s needed. They need to feel safe to talk about their concerns. They need to be heard. But they also must be challenged.
Negativity is contagious. If there’s validity, let’s hear it out. Let’s try to fix it. But allow them to be part of the solution and feel the ownership and the weight of having to get things resolved. It’s easy to sit back and identify problems. It is much harder to implement solutions.
Being able to identify problems is no great gift. It’s no great benefit to an organization.
What business leaders need are not more people to identify problems (although sometimes this is needed). What they really need are people that can help them solve their challenges.