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How many times have you heard: 'Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions'?

All too often, managers confuse raising problems with having a negative attitude, whining or complaining.

But as Adam Grant, from the University of Pennsylvania points out, promoting a solutions-based culture obscures the most difficult of an organisation’s problems and can lead to a situation in which individuals advocate their own fix, rather than working together towards the optimum result.

Or worse still, the prospect of having to offer a solution to what may be a complex, nuanced problem is too intimidating, and team members choose to remain silent instead, leaving the problem concealed and unresolved.

Team Roles and problem-solving

According to Belbin Team Role methodology, we might each have different roles to play when it comes to diagnosing, analysing and solving problems.

Monitor Evaluators and Completer Finishers are good at highlighting issues with the macro and the micro of a project, respectively. The shrewd, discerning Monitor Evaluator can analyse an idea from all angles, spotting broader problems that may prevent a project getting off the ground. The meticulous Completer Finisher can delve into the detail, pinpointing the line of small print which threatens to unravel the whole endeavour.

Those raising the issues may be regarded as wet blankets or pedants, but it’s crucial to allow them the space to voice concerns and identify problems, without discouragement or the onus of being the ones to provide solutions. Otherwise, these Team Role contributions are essentially discarded.

Moving from problem to solution

The key for high-performing teams is to understand the value of these contributions, acknowledge the problems identified and then decide where to look for answers.

There are a few Team Roles which might be particularly suited to solving problems.

  • Plants are creative, lateral thinkers. Undeterred by a blank page, they are likely to be the source of solutions that don’t occur to others.
  • Resource Investigators are adept at going outside the team to find untapped resources and networking to establish useful contacts who might be able to offer the crucial solution.
  • Specialists provide specific, in-depth expertise which may be needed for a particular project, even if these individuals are not permanent team members.

A skilled Co-ordinator can help identify which team members might provide these ‘solutions task-forces’, or determine if the project needs external consultation. This requires a consultative approach, giving adequate airtime to each team member and deciding how best to harness individual talents during the lifetime of the project.

Have you encountered a project team that blew off course because it ignored the warning-signs? Does your team expect all team members to come armed with solutions to problems? We’d love to hear from you and help you uncover the talents in your team.

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Belbin Team Roles are used to identify behavioural strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. Whether developing people, resolving conflict or fine-tuning high performance...

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