We have all encountered them – the coworker who seems to relish in pointing out anything and everything that is going awry. The one who comes to every meeting armed with a laundry list of issues, roadblocks, and reasons why something cannot be done. While identifying problems is certainly important, dwelling in them is of little use. As the old adage goes, don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions.
The employee who only brings up issues puts their manager in a position of constant problem-solving. This approach signals a lack of ownership and initiative and prevents real progress from being made. On the other hand, the employee who highlights problems but also proposes solutions moves the team forward. They recognize that progress lies not in complaints but in remedy and action.
There is a certain nobility in illuminating the darkness, in drawing attention to the obstacles and barriers that prevent smooth sailing. The Harvard Business Review has attested to the power of surfacing problems early and often, fostering an environment where employees feel empowered and unafraid to identify the issues that hinder success. The act of shedding light on these problems can indeed hasten the process of problem-solving and prevent the ship from sinking under the weight of unaddressed issues.
The solution-seeking employee is willing to do the deep thinking required to resolve issues – not just point them out. They play an integral role in enabling their colleagues and company to improve, advance, and thrive. While the problem pointer may receive initial praise for “bringing up good points,” the solution seeker gains valuable experience, exhibits leadership abilities, and shows a capacity for strategic thinking. Over time, they build the credibility and track record of someone able to drive results and overcome challenges.
Why does this matter for one’s career growth? Like the intrepid sailors of yesteryear, employees must demonstrate their adaptability and resourcefulness in the face of adversity. Those who merely point out the problems may be seen as valuable crew members, but it is the ones who dare to plot a course through the storm who truly stand out, establishing themselves as indispensable navigators. Aspiring towards this ideal, employees will find themselves poised for growth and advancement, their careers charted on a course towards success.
Consider the example of a team faced with a seemingly insurmountable deadline. An employee who simply highlights the issue, expressing doubt about the team’s ability to meet the deadline, would undoubtedly be heard. However, their voice may soon be lost in the cacophony of other concerns. In contrast, the employee who acknowledges the impending deadline and then proposes a plan of action, perhaps suggesting ways to streamline workflows, delegate tasks, or prioritize work, would emerge as a beacon of hope amidst the darkness. This individual takes on the role of a problem-solver, an active participant in the journey towards success.
In any organization, career growth is tied to the ability to solve important problems. Leaders seek to surround themselves with those able to shoulder difficulties, ponder solutions, and inspire progress. They reward initiative and empower those willing to take ownership of issues, not just identify them. Each of us has the opportunity to be either the problem pointer or the solution seeker. One road leads to stagnation, the other to advancement. The choice is ours. Our organizations, colleagues, and careers will be better for it.