Suzy Welch talks about the importance of reporting problems to your boss and encourages bringing solutions as well.
(piano music) - Problems happen at work. There is not a single person who's had a career that's longer than, say 18 months, who has not bumped into some kind of failure, a flop, a product that doesn't work out, a client who just leaves, and you have problems. And you're going to have to bring those to your boss. That is the way a work goes. If you don't bring it to your boss, the problem's going to get worse and you're going to get in trouble. But you should never, never, bring that problem to your boss without a solution, because the boss, while the boss wants to help you, the boss is looking to see whether or not you can be a boss someday yourself, and if you don't come with the solution, you've immediately taken yourself out of the running for that.
Plus really, it's sort of an integrity thing, right? If you have a problem, you're going to want to come up with a solution to show how responsible you are and to show that you're part of the team, and you're not just about sort of announcing problems, you're about solving problems. One of our favorite stories around how you handle a problem stems from an experience in 1963 when my husband, Jack Welch, was a young plastics engineer, Pittsfield, Mass, and he blew up a factory, he was trying to combine two chemicals to create a new plastic, he did it incorrectly, he had a wrong idea as a engineer, PhD engineer, he made a mistake and thank God, no one was hurt, nobody was in the building when it happened, but the roof of the building completely blew off, every window was shattered, and he immediately got a call from headquarters, and he thought he was going to be canned.
And instead, there was a fantastic senior manager, a guy named Charlie Reed who was a scientist, and he used the Socratic method with Jack, and he walked him through why it happened, and what could be done to prevent it in the future and how they might combine these chemicals in the future, so it would never happen and would be successful. And what Jack took away from that was that he was the one that should have brought that to the table. I mean, Charlie Reed did him a huge favor, showing him how he should have come to that meeting, he should have come to the meeting with an explanation and he should've come to the meeting with some ideas about a way forward.
Maybe he didn't know at that point exactly how to combine the chemicals, but he could've said what I'm going to do is explore ways to combine chemicals differently. It made a huge and lasting impression on him that held him in really good stead for the rest of that career. The Socratic method as a boss's is one of the great ways to develop your people, right? You have somebody who you think has got great skill and great talent and great gifts, but they're not there yet, I mean that happens all the time when you're a manager and your job is to make those people grow, to help them grow and come up alongside them. And look, there's a bunch of different ways to do that, and you know, to be completely honest, when I was a manager of a lot of people my favorite way to do it was just to tell them what to do.
Look, I would've done it this way and just tell them. And I learned over time that that's not an effective method and really, the Socratic method is so much longer, it's harder, it can feel very tedious, you want to move things right along, but that question and answer, that asking what do you make of this, what if you had done that, that kind of questioning that leads a person through the trail of how they might do the thinking to get them to the right answer, that is worth the time it takes in terms of developing the people who work for you.