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Get the monkeys off your back

HOW do you respond when one of your people brings a problem to you which you think they are capable of resolving? Do you hear yourself saying, “OK. Leave it with me. I’ll sort it out later”? In this situation, picture the problem as a monkey on this person’s back. Their intention is to get the monkey off their back and on to yours. Your intention is to get them to get rid of the monkey; that is, resolve the problem. If you are accountable and responsible for resolving the problem, then you deal with it. If the person is responsible and accountable and has the capability, then send a clear message that you expect them to deal with it. There is no doubt that some people will attempt to pass the buck up the line. They will keep doing this for as long as the manager lets them. If people are attempting to leave their problems on your desk and you know that they are capable of resolving them, try this approach: A ‘buck passer’ will probably say to you, “we’ve got a problem.” At this point, focus on the thought. No - we don’t have a problem. You have a problem and that’s why we pay you - to solve work problems. Coach them through this checklist as relevant: Identify and define the problem. Identify the root cause/s of the problem. Avoid making ‘snap’ judgements about what the problem is. Discuss and agree the symptoms of the problem. Agree the desired outcomes when the problem is resolved. Involve key stakeholders in the whole process of resolving the problem. Focus on the facts of the situation as opposed to assumptions and inferences, which may be inaccurate. Check for hidden or underlying causes. Generate alternative solutions to the problem. Discuss all suggestions of solutions. Evaluate the alternatives suggested by weighing up the pros and the cons. Select the alternate that best resolves the root causes of the problem Discuss the consequences of the decision and how it may affect all stakeholders. Identify what changes to organisation policy will be required to implement the decision. Identify any likely opposition to the implementation strategy. Involve staff affected by the changes during the planning and implementation stages. Implement the new ways to do things, which will solve the problem. Work at getting active support and participation from all stakeholders. Identify the who, when, how, what and where during the planning and implementation stages. Check that the problem has been solved. Ask staff what improvements they think have taken place after implementation. Correct any errors and modify decisions if necessary. Identify and provide training and support where needed during implementation. Discuss with senior management what is required from them to support the decisions made to solve the problem. Conduct regular reviews of the progress of the decisions made. Discuss the benefits that have resulted from the decisions made. Daniel Kehoe

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