If Your Staff Doesn’t Bring You Problems That is a Bad Sign

Posted on June 15, 2009  Comments (5)

The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.

        – Colin Powell

I discussed my feelings on this in a previous post, Bring Me Problems:

If an employee never learns how to find possible solutions themselves that is not a good sign. But it is much, much better to bring problems to managements attention than to fail to do so because they know the manager thinks that doing so is weak. It is the attitude that problems are not to be shared that is weak, in my opinion.

Related: Where to Start ImprovementStop Demotivating Me!How to ImproveLeadership quotes

“Having no problems is the biggest problem of all.” – Taiichi Ohno

5 Responses to “If Your Staff Doesn’t Bring You Problems That is a Bad Sign”

  1. shaun sayers
    June 17th, 2009 @ 7:09 am

    This is quite a significant issue Jon, and there is a fine balance to be found

    On the one hand I remember as a young man one of my managers turning to me, when I was moaning about something or other, “Don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions”, and that sound bite had a big impact on my outlook to a lot of things

    The reason I say that there is a balance to be found is because workers need to know that some things are their responsibility and they can’t run to mum like a five year old every five minutes. But the flip side is that when they do come with solutions, then the manager needs to be big enough to add the support and financial muscle to it to make it work. A partnership approach

    So in summary, I completely agree that the day your workers stop identifying problems, you have a problem. Chances are they know fine well what the problems are, but have concluded that reporting them is a futile exercise. A bad situation to have developed, but it happens

  2. Tim McMahon
    June 30th, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

    Your post and Shaun’s comments are quite right. I think the there is an evoluation in thinking as an organization learns lean ways. Phase 1 is there is no problem – this is the status quo stage. Phase 2 is we have a problem and I am waiting for management to solve it – complancey stage. Phase 3 is I have a problem, help me – the learning stage.
    Phase 4 is I have problem but I have a solution – empowerment stage. Phase 5 is I had a problem look what we did – Lean thinking stage. This is the cultural change we all seek to transform.

  3. Jaky Astik
    July 1st, 2009 @ 11:21 pm

    Where there are no problems there is no leadership, because then, no one cares.

  4. Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » The Best Leadership Is Good Management
    September 6th, 2009 @ 8:20 am

    I have never been comfortable with the attempts to separate leadership from managing. Normally the tone is that leadership is what matters and managing is just then carrying out what leaders have determined and allowed…

  5. Toyota Kata Song – The Times They Are Changing » Curious Cat Lean Management Blog
    April 4th, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

    Lyrics: “Managing by results, it don’t work anymore. Don’t stand in your office, go to the shop floor… to really improve you must iterate, see our problems as treasures before its too late, and eliminate waste, whether little or great…”

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