When a stakeholder asks you to solve a problem, make sure you understand what’s driving their request. Asking follow-up questions can help you come up with better solutions.
So many times when we’re asked to look into an issue, we just rush off and start solving it without really thinking through what’s causing the person to ask the question in the first place. Probe to understand why you’re being asked to look at something. Once you have a good understanding of why, you’re more toward a cause, but don’t stop there. Once you have that understanding, ask why again. Really get that deep understanding of what’s causing concern on your stakeholder’s part.
By understanding the real question they have, you can avoid solving symptoms and instead, come up with a recommendation that is going to resonate for them and be something that they’re excited about. The real question opens up new answers, new ideas, and new opportunities.
Let me offer an example. An executive that I worked with, named Sue, was asked by her senior stakeholder, Kim, to look at employee turnover data. Sue knew this data inside and out. It was very easy for her to go into the information, pull out the data, and generate a report about turnover. And she could have done that, but she didn’t. She stopped and asked Kim why she wanted to understand this issue, and it was really an issue of evaluating unit performance.
Well, once Sue understood this, other metrics made more sense than just the base turnover data. She stopped though and asked Kim again why was she looking at unit performance in particular. Turns out what Kim really wanted to understand was whether they were having issues with leadership or with processes. They were having a lot of churn and turnover of their associates. It was now clear to Sue that she had to look at metrics and processes. By doing so, she was able to generate ideas on how to fix some of the issues with leadership, as well as some of the processes that should change. She generated a better solution.
What I’d encourage you to do is take a look at a problem you’ve been asked to solve. Go back to that stakeholder and understand what’s really driving that request. Why do they care about this? When you get a better understanding of that, you’ll find the solutions you come up with are going to be bigger, better, and more exciting.
Want to learn more about critical thinking? How about taking an entire course on it? Go directly to the course and start learning about critical thinking. The entire course is available at LinkedIn Learning. Enjoy!
Did you enjoy this post? If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog. It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!). SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!