Yesterday, I was in a town hall group meeting, and a director from my team who I admire a lot said something that really resonated with me:
“If you have one problem that you’re expecting someone else to solve, you have two problems.”
The reason this hit home for me is because it made me reflect on my own career, the career of those around me, and the careers of those I’ve managed.
And I realized an important trend – those who climbed the corporate ladder vs those who remained where they were had one key difference.
The climbers were problem solvers.
It’s no surprise that in almost every job description, “problem solving” is right up there as a soft skill requirement along with “communication skills”.
The reason is simple – every single job exists to solve problems. Whether you’re the CEO or a data analyst, a business is a complex machine that has problems, and creates new problems as the business evolves.
So if everyone is problem solving, why do some problem solvers do better than others?
That’s because they are predicting, owning and solving new problems that come up as the business evolves.
I can use my own team as an example. We used to created reports by mushing up a dump of Excel files together, and manually creating Powerpoint reports.
We could have continued doing that. But as the business grew, demand and volume increased, and we could no longer keep up.
Now, there are some employees that would say “Well, that’s not our problem. We do what we can with what we have.”
Then there are the super-stars that say “There must be a better way.” We ended up automating the whole process using software and tools we already had access to.
Think about your own circumstances right now.
I’m sure if I asked, you could give me a whole list of everything that is wrong with your team, your department, your processes. Then if I asked you, “What are you doing about it?” What will your answer be? Will you say “I’m working on it.” Or will you say:
- “I don’t have time”
- “It’s not my job to fix it”
- “It’s out of my control”
These could be valid reasons or lame excuses.
It doesn’t matter. The moment someone has the drive to stand up and say, “I’m going to solve this problem”, they are the ones who are going to be next in line for a promotion.
If you’ve been stuck in a go-nowhere job wondering what’s next for you, ask yourself what problems you can solve for your team today. Because if you can’t prove you can solve the problems beyond your original job, you won’t move beyond your current role.