With so many things out of our control right now, it is the perfect time to work on our own development. After all, harnessing the power to accomplish more and have a more positive impact is what we all want, right? Of course, but it sounds like a lot of work and the process of trying something new always seems to make things worse before they get better. So, where does that leave you?
Fortunately, I’ve compiled a list of small ways you can make a big difference. As you review, you may find that you’re already a solutionist.
A solutionist is someone who:
- Practices looking for opportunities to improve and/or incorporate better ways to serve, create and operate. Asks others for feedback and ideas.
- Instead of criticizing, offers a suggestion and is prepared to provide at least a high-level overview of benefits, opportunities and hurdles needed to overcome. It’s okay to not have all the answers, just disclose that it’s something you just started looking to and can offer more details next time.
- Focuses on diffusing situations with clients, team members and vendors. It’s easy to get caught up in the fires needing to be put out. Especially when in-person, negativity is contagious and it’s easy to get sucked criticizing people and the problem rather than seeking understanding and hidden lessons.
- Whenever possible, provides options to team members and clients. Even if they are minor, providing options allows others to feel in control.
- Saves interruptions for emergencies or urgent matters. Otherwise, send an email and let them get back to you. It’s okay to ask for feedback by the end of the day, week or month. This helps others get and stay in a zone to be their most productive selves.
- Does not participate in negativity or potentially political conversations with clients or team members. It’s usually a waste of time and can cause even more problems.
- Over communicates to minimize assumptions and uncertainty.
- Confirm receipt on emails sent. I do this when I send an email and don’t hear back or there is a deadline I’m asking someone to meet. It’s also really helpful for you to confirm when you receive an email or request. It leaves one less thing that person or you have to remember and track down later. A quick “got it.”
- Double-check that the intended message was received by asking a few follow up questions like, “Do you have the resources you need to do this?” or “I know this will take some time to pull together, so do you foresee any reasons why this can’t get done?”
- Check in to ensure work is on track to meet expectations. A quick follow up like, “Checking to see if you’re still on track to do X by X date?” makes things run smoother with fewer surprises. Depending on the timeline of the project or request, I’ll check in at the halfway more or at least a few days before it’s due, thus removing the chance that the due date will come and go because it slipped through the cracks.
- This may seem like extra work but it really isn’t. This is where the trusty calendar comes in. When I send an email request or assign an action item, I immediately plop it on my calendar a few days or week out as a reminder to check in if I haven’t yet received a reply. It’s also an extra sense of gratification when you do hear back and can check it off or delete it from your list that day.
So what happens when you start practicing the behaviors of a solutionist?
You’ll start to notice that you feel more confident because you’re doing the best you can and being the best contributor you can be. This brings a sense of peace and trust in the process. No longer is your focus competing with things out of your control so you have more energy to put towards making a positive impact.
Shifting to a more proactive and solution-oriented mindset, creates more positive energy and forward momentum. Since you’re doing your best in the present, you’re more able to adjust and accommodate needs as they arise.
If you’re not sure if you’ve ever experienced being in the flow, you’ve probably been in the flow although you might not have identified it in the moment. Or maybe you think of it more as being “in the zone.” The usual indicator of this is losing track of time because you are fully engrossed in and enjoying that particular activity. Increasing the amount of time and frequency you stay in this state, the more productive you ultimately are. In fact, I previously posted a blog article about a research study where they found, “Most top level executives are 5X more productive when in the flow.” Imagine the impact you could have if you operated at that level more of the time.
So yes, change does take time and there isn’t a magic wand to change this. New habits generally take about two weeks to develop, so I recommend setting reminders of some sort until you’re no longer having to think about it. I’ve personally seen how empowering and inspiring this change can be in myself and with those I’ve mentored and coached over the years. Incorporating these practices so they become habit, frees your mind to tackle more challenging or aspiring goals to lead you into the future.