Often attorneys and managers have similar characteristics. For one thing both groups, which overlap to a great extent in law firms, tend to spend a lot of time figuring things out on their own. I am not sure why this is. I think both groups, believing they have been hired for their talent, fear that if they ask for any kind of help or input, they are showing they are not valuable in their role. There is an ego component as well. We like people to think we know what we are doing.
However, this is a detrimental, slow-moving, and narrow-sighted way to do things. All people have a particular view of the world. No two people have the same view of the world. Sometimes this creates conflict, but it also poses opportunities for great brainstorming and problem-solving. When I can’t see a good answer to a problem, I go find the person who is the least like me and ask what they think. I am likely to get a wildly different viewpoint and that is exactly what I want.
To every problem, there are always multiple answers. In problem-solving, you want to consider as many possible answers as you can. Just by the nature of the human brain, you by yourself, do not have all the possible answers. But if you ask enough people, you will hear enough answers to find the right solution for you.
I was recently in a tough position. I hold a leadership role in a couple of different philanthropic organizations. I was asked a question in my leadership capacity and I realized the answer would lead to actions that would have important consequences. At first I thought of my own answer. But before deciding on the proper course, I asked several other leaders in our organization what they thought. I got a whole slew of different answers, chose one and thought, “this is the way we should go.” But I was not 100% comfortable; so I sought yet another answer – fortunately, because this answer was entirely different. It was partially an answer to my question and partially advice – “here are the experts in this field; go ask them.” So I did. It took a couple days. But I followed the trail from one answer to the next, one idea to another and got the right answer for us. I never could have done this on my own.
On a simpler scale, I recently spoke with a management client who shared that, after learning about this way of seeking solutions, he began asking his employees what they thought about certain problems. He said, “when an employee called in sick, I used to just take over the shift. But then I realized I couldn’t do my job this way. Now whenever an employee calls in, I ask the other employees how they want to handle it. Sometimes they decide to split up the work. Sometimes they suggest we call in another off-duty employee. Sometimes they have other solutions. But the solutions are usually things I would never consider and they never involve me working the shift!
The easiest way to find the solution to any problem is to ask other people. Try it.