Are you “problem curious” enough during team communications?

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team communications

If you manage or are part of a team there are bound to be periods in your team’s history together where you just … suck a little. Or a lot.

If everything in business were easy then we wouldn’t need caffeine on a Monday and Merlot on a Friday (or Kombucha if you live in Boulder), so having the odd rough spot is perfectly normal in your team’s life cycle. Work is often stressful. We are often tired. Sometimes we don’t communicate as well as we could do.

But that’s not to say that we can’t change the path of that downward slope once it’s been recognized. A team leader should always be on the lookout for indicators of poor team communication in order to try and nip them in the bud before they turn into a bigger problem. To do this in the first instance requires look at one’s own behaviors on a regular basis.

Are you a quick fixer?

I’m a fixer by nature. Come to me with a problem and I’ll try and fix it in the least amount of time possible. That’s great if your problem is something like “I’m hungry,” or, “I broke my arm,” — both problems that require immediate attention in order for you to be a happy teammate.

But what if your problem is, “What’s this A/B test telling me?” or “I’m struggling to find the right content pillar,”?

My innate reaction is to tell you what I think you should do to solve the problem. I.e. give you the answer because we all get to the solution quicker that way, right?

Well, maybe. But I’ve learned that short-term fixes don’t always lead to long-term team success.

Or, are you problem curious?

I’ve had to learn to be more “problem curious” in order to enable my team to learn from their questions rather than blindly following my suggested answers. There is a couple of reasons for this:

Firstly, I’m not always the best person to make the decision about what actually needs to be done. If a colleague has been working on a project he or she undoubtedly knows more about it than I do. If I just bulldoze in there with what I perceive the solution to be I just missed an opportunity. If I’m curious and ask questions, I’ll learn more.

Second, I’m not allowing my colleague to come to the conclusion. She might well come to the same conclusion as I did—and often that is the case—but in not allowing her to find it I also didn’t allow her to gain the confidence associated with doing so.

Sometimes the better solution is in asking the right questions

Being a problem-curious investigator rather than a problem-crushing solver is difficult at first for someone as impatient as myself simply because it takes longer. Many of us want to extinguish frustration in our colleagues as soon as possible and that’s why we turn into problem solvers in the first place.

The rewards, however, are well worth the initial pain of biting one’s tongue and inquiring rather than prescribing. When you are problem curious you teach your colleagues what questions need to be answered in order to reach the best solution, but you also teach yourself where your own assumptions lie.

This latter point is the wildest part: in not jumping in and telling someone how you think a problem could be solved, you’re opening yourself up to learning a different way—and that way might be more effective and efficient than the one you would have originally prescribed.

By Tabitha Farrar

Tab is Twine’s CMO, but she likes to write sometimes too.

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