Demand Answers and Solutions, Not Excuses - You'll Cut Problem Solving Time By 54.9%!

Cut problem-solving time with employees by at least 54.9%! Teach employees to BA, Bring Answers, not excuses or Bad Attitudes.

Liz, a manager I worked for, had a graphic like shown below sitting on her desk. It forced me to be well prepared in our meetings.

The message was reinforced at a conference I attended where the speaker was Douglas Ivester, former CEO of Coca-Cola. He taught a powerful lesson to the group of assembled executives when he said, “My motto is ‘Bring me solutions, not excuses.’”

Mr. Ivester, a formidable opponent who admittedly loves hand-to-hand combat, told the story of challenging the engineers at Coca-Cola to produce the first bottle that had curves melted into the shape. He recounted how the very appealing, snazzy new bottle would not flow down the production line in the Birmingham plant.

Ivester related the conversation he had with the Vice President who was over the production in Birmingham, Alabama. This VP called Mr. Ivester with a familiar line, “We have a problem.”

“Where are you?” Doug barked.

“Why I’m right here in my office next to yours, here in Atlanta.”

“I can’t believe you would call me from your office. I would expect you to call me from the Georgia-Alabama line.” Ivester slammed the phone down.

One hour later he got a call from the same person who said, “I’m at the Georgia-Alabama line. Can we talk?” and Doug replied, “I have all afternoon to talk about the solution with you.”

How can we apply this management lesson to our personal leadership in our companies? 

Require your employees to bring ideas and suggestions at the same moment they bring a problem to you. The statement may sound like “We have a problem with _________ and I recommend we do _______. My reasoning is _________________.”

Using this formula, you and your employee skip the time talking ABOUT the problem. You identify the problem and then spend as much time as it takes to find a solution.

Problems are of no consequence when excuses are replaced with solutions that are tenaciously pursued.

Tactical Tips for Leaders

When a problem is discovered, it is human nature to dwell on the problem and try to find a friend or coworker to validate the problem and commiserate on the lack of solutions. Don’t let your team fall into this trap. Turn this tendency around with this mantra: Bring Answers.

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To implement the Bring Answers formula,  

  1. Think critically. Find out what caused the problem or why the problem occurred.
  2. Change Mental Mindsets. After you have critically analyzed the situation, make a conscious effort to move your mental mindset to finding solutions.
  3. Ask for insight. Team members and colleagues can give insight if you ask. Most people are honored to help you but often we hesitate thinking they will see us as incompetent.
  4. Use Creativity Principles. Looking for the absolute “right” answer may not give you the best solution. Try looking for “another right answer” or demanding that at least two alternatives are considered.  

One Last Step

Make a BA sign to set on your desk, reminding people they are part of the solution and you want them to bring ideas that will solve the challenge. After all, you hired them for their brains, not necessarily their brawn. 

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