What CEOs can learn from Captain PicardRoger Quinn ▼ | Thursday November 8, 2012 5:01PM ET
Every manager has a distinctive style. Some of them are yelling all the time, some are lone rangers, some have a bunch of advisors, but they all have one thing in common: they must solve problems that other can't solve, problems that can undermine the company's future.
One problem is above them all: how to avoid to be cluttered with all sort of problems and questions, from the really important to the smallest ones?
If you saw a single episode of Star Trek with Captain Picard you know what he will say when someone enter the room yelling "We are under attack!" Or "We don't have enough food." Or "We have a problem." After the problem is put forward, Picard usually say a simple word: "Solution?" That word will make your life easier, your employees more self-confident, and your company stronger. Here's why.
If you demand a solution every time your employees comes with a problem, you will teach them to think outside their usual thought patterns. If an engineer say that his department is out of parts, ask him what he would do about it. If a marketing staff state that the campaign you just launched gives no results, ask how he would improve it.
If the human resource officer say that the company need a specific profile of experts, ask where they can be found. That will force all of them to think at a higher, managerial level, to think about things they haven't been thinking about.
Admitelly, some solutions will be silly, some will sound impossible, but some will be very usefull. With time, those solutions will be better and better and that will boost your employees' self-confidence. They will be more connected to the company because they will stop to be just workers doing their job, they will feel that their opinion is respected at the top.
Encourage your staff to say what they think because you never know who could have an idea that may mean a disaster for your competition. Companies that listen to their people are great companies.
Since all people are creative in their unique way, they will start to bring more and more creative solutions to the table and some of them may even lead to the new product or service, or a huge improvement in production with reduced cost.
No matter in which department they work, creative ideas will find the way to cross the department borders and help the company in general. A simple idea where to find the missing part may improve your supplier chain, for example, or the way the production team works.
Your life as a CEO will be much easier because many problems will be solved before they get to you. You won't be bored with simple questions and you'll have time for your job: to think about strategy and where you want to see your company in the next period.
You will also see who gives you the most usefull ideas and you can share that information with the human resource department. That way, you will see who deserves a better position, a higher salary or some other reward.
So, from the low-rank worker to higher management, every employee should end his "We have a problem..." sentence with "and here's what I would do." When you achieve that you'll know that you are the CEO of a successful company. ■