December 20, 2017
My first management position started out as a nightmare. I was a brand new employee for a mid-sized corporation and I inherited a team of eight talented employees who reported directly to me. They were pleasant enough but after two weeks on the job, I began to be filled with dread. Each day was full of interruptions as I dealt with a steady parade of employees marching into my office and complaining about some issue. Their complaints included the personality problems of other employees, technical problems, communication problems, computer failures and mail delivery. You name it…I heard about it.
It was driving me nuts. I started making inquiries about my predecessor in order to learn more about her management style. Other managers shared their impressions of her. The more I learned about her, the more I discovered that she had viewed her management role almost as that of a parent and psychotherapist for her employees. There was an atmosphere of co-dependency. Everybody was blaming everything and everyone else for their problems at work. The employees had acquired the habit of dumping the problem on their manager’s shoulder and letting the boss figure out the solution.
I needed to put a stop to the complaining and help my employees become a team of possibility thinkers. So I established a “Solutions Only” policy. No employee was allowed to enter my office to complain about anything unless they had written down at least three possible solutions to the problem. My goal was to build a team of possibility thinkers!
At first, they were frustrated, even a little angry. But after a while, everyone started to get the hang of it–including me.
My days became more productive because there were fewer interruptions. Before an employee strolled in to discuss a concern, they had to carefully think through the possible solutions and write them down. More often than not, they didn’t even need to talk to me about it because once they came up with a solution, they also realized that they were able to implement it themselves.
Our staff meetings also became more dynamic. They were no longer boring reporting sessions. At each meeting, the team would identify a key issue that they wanted to get resolved. Then we would brainstorm all the possible solutions to that issue. Each employee took turns at facilitating the meetings. Creative ideas abounded.
When you have a whole team of possibility thinkers, there is a greater sense of ownership. Everyone becomes part of the solution. It creates a far more pleasant, productive environment and reduces stress. Be patient, because possibility thinking does not come naturally to everyone but it can be learned.
Whether you’re the boss or working for him or her, possibility thinking will enhance self-esteem, foster better work relations and improve communication. Possibility thinkers resolve problems faster and make everyone’s day more productive and enjoyable.
Take this quick quiz to find out if you’re a possibility thinker:
If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, congratulations–you are a possibility thinker and the sky’s the limit. If you answered ‘no’ to these questions, you may be limiting your opportunity for personal success or the success of your team. You may also be making yourself unnecessarily unhappy.