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The Problem With Problems

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I Need Answers

I Need Answers

Inexperienced employees have a difficult time in solving problems.  Not only because they lack the technical skills obtained by working in their field over a period of time, but because they lack a systematic approach to solving a problem of any kind.  They don’t assemble all the facts, identify missing information, understand what order tasks must be performed or even if certain things are dependent upon completion of other tasks before proceeding.

A common problem is not asking for help.  They may spin their wheels for a long time before asking a question.  It is difficult to ask questions when you are new.   They might not want to admit to a supervisor that they don’t know what to do.  This is understandable and can be alleviated by a supervisor who tells them it is OK to ask questions if stumped.  It is also a good idea to give some hints on what stumbling blocks they may encounter.  After all, the supervisor may have had the same problems when they were starting out.

Another good idea for a supervisor is tell them what the answer might look like in a general sense so they know what they are “shooting for”.  Yes, the supervisor needs to take a role in helping the newbie learn how to solve problems.  This is a fine line to walk.  You have to be able to give them the nudge they need without becoming a crutch.  They need to learn like the rest of us – by making mistakes and not repeating those mistakes the next time around.  When you feel the pain of a mistake in problem solving, it is much like getting burned by fire – you remember it.

I suggest that anyone who has an inexperienced employee under their care that they take the responsibility to give guidance to avoid wasting time, but not to deprive them of learning from mistakes.  I like to share stories of the things I did when I was starting out to let them know it is OK to make mistakes.  I also tell them to make it a goal to not make the same mistake twice.

Good luck with bringing up the next generation of problem solvers.  You can be part of the legacy that they will leave.  Have a great week.

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