Don’t Just Fix Problems. Let People Know that You Are Fixing Problems.

Some of my posts are about “big” issues like how effective leaders treat other people and some are little nuggets like how to schedule one’s day to include things you actually want to do. This post is one of the little nuggets that can help to smooth day to day operations.

A characteristic common to all good managers is the ability to fix problems. People respect and appreciate individuals that can size up a challenge and implement a solution to that challenge. And they expect managers to help them be successful. However, many of the best solutions take time to develop and implement. In the mean time, if you’re working feverishly on a great solution to a problem, does anyone know that? A key, but often overlooked component of good management is clear communication about what is being done at any give time to solve a problem or challenge.

I learned several years ago that when someone brings a problem or challenge to your attention, even if you are dedicating significant time and resources to helping the person, if you don’t explicitly tell him or her what you are doing, he or she is likely to think you are doing nothing, which creates a double problem. First, the employ is feeling anxiety over the fact that he or she still has the problem, and second, the person is also likely to feel that you didn’t hear him or her or don’t care about the person (or the problem) because you aren’t doing anything about it. Ninety percent of satisfaction is managing expectations. So, if, on the other hand, you let people know what you are doing to solve or help solve their problem, what the likely timeline is, and what kind of resolution they can expect, they will feel confident about the problem—because they know you’re working on it—and they will appreciate your efforts, even though the problem hasn’t been solved yet. Periodic updates, even a quick email or SMS, when you are working on a solution to a problem or an answer to a request will go a long way to keeping employees engaged and appreciative, and they will know you haven’t forgotten them or their issue!

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