3 Tips for Building the Best Problem-Solving Team

One of the biggest workplace complaints is that people don’t like their manager. I was recently reminded of the Peter Principle, which states that employees are promoted based on their performance in there current role; thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively.

If managers rise to the level of their incompetence, that means that, as managers, we must be proactive in building the skills necessary to become proficient in our positions. Over the course of my career, I’ve had bosses who were good, bad, and everything in between. Similarly, in my time managing others, I’ve discovered firsthand both what works and what doesn’t.

Here is are my top 3 tips for building an unparalleled problem-solving team:

  1. Hire for attitude and aptitude, not experience. When interviewing candidates, look for the individual who is intrinsically-driven, eager to learn, and hungry for career growth. No level of experience or training can trump the desire to succeed. When I asked my boss why he hired me, he replied quite simply: “I like the way you think.” I was not necessarily pre-qualified for the position, be he got the sense that I would navigate any hurdles on my path to achieving success. And he was right. I’ve used the same principle when hiring my support team.
  2. Get to know your employees and discover what motivates them. One person may be stimulated by challenge and autonomy, whereas someone else may be dreaming of buying a sports car. While it is important to establish the pecking order, it’s just as vital to observe and listen to your team, offering each individual the project, praise, and reward that best matches their motivation style. If you speak their language, per se, you will quickly build rapport, respect, and loyalty.
  3. Allow for autonomy and encourage failure. In the business world, “failure” is the big, bad “F” word that everyone tries to avoid. However, my most potent learning experiences have been the times where I was given an objective, asked to devise a solution, and then allowed to implement my solution. This approach often ended in failure, but it allowed my manager to poke holes in my thinking and fill in the areas I was obviously missing, ultimately solidifying a deeper understanding of both the problem and the solution. Over time, I became better at identifying shortfalls in my own thinking, and later offering similar constructive criticism to my teams.

Harvard Business Review recently released a list of key qualities exhibited by good problem-solving teams. The include the following traits: curious, encouraging, experimental, forceful, inquiring, and nurturing. As managers, we can foster these qualities by creating a psychologically safe environment and bringing on a cognitively diverse team. Interestingly, these findings mirror my own experience.

“The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people.” ― Kenneth H. Blanchard

Every strong and effective team is built on the foundation of its comprising individuals. As managers, it’s important that we invest time, money, and energy into supporting the individuals on our team to help them thrive personally, while also ensuring maximum efficiency and output in the workplace. For me, this might mean monthly one-on-one lunches with team members, giving them gifts and performance bonuses out of my own pocket, allowing for unquestioned time off from work, and offering the opportunity for team team members tot choose which project they want to work on.

Have you ever had an incredible boss? What made them likable and effective? If you’ve ever managed a team, what advice do you have for motivating a team to solve the big problems?

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