Is the key solution to that critical marketing project eluding you? Or maybe you’re frustrated with your job search or that coworker who always seems to be slacking when you need something?
Then get off LinkedIn, halt the endless online research and emails, and talk it out! As Frances Frei, Harvard Business School professor and author of Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You once said, “Identifying problems can be a solo sport, but finding solutions rarely is.”1
From entry-level to CEO, we all need to work effectively with our colleagues — even the difficult ones.
Often, it seems easier and more efficient to avoid that difficult coworker and rely on email. And sometimes it can save you time and energy. Except when it doesn’t. There are times when you may find yourself constantly emailing someone to explain your point of view or to prod them to action. This is when a verbal exchange can resolve issues faster and with more satisfaction.
You don’t need to arrange a virtual meeting if you’re “Zoomed-out.” Pick up the phone and have that tough, but respectful conversation. Use tactics like sticking to the topic at hand, staying in the present and the future only, and find areas where you both agree.2 You can also be mindful of such things as the tone of your voice. If you’re still unsure of how to do it, check out this handy list of the basics of good professional communication.
Allowing your “lizard brain” to manage your career is a very bad idea.
With some issues in our career emotions can run very high, such as when you’re seriously unhappy at your current job or you find yourself unemployed. Often, situations such as a job search can trigger terror due to financial insecurity, imposter syndrome, or even a complete lack of self worth, especially if it takes a while to get hired. You may be tempted to accept that offer from a toxic employer, aim too low, or unprofessionally lash out at that difficult manager, sidetracking or sabotaging your career.
When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it’s because your amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for the basic “fight or flight” response) has decided there is a life or death threat at stake. Not only will it cause you to feel lousy, but it can hijack the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for more logical thought processes and creativity — the very thing you need to effectively solve your problem!3
This is where talking about how you are feeling can really help. Research suggests that putting your feelings into words, a process called “affect labeling,” neurologically disrupts this amygdala activity and increases activity in the prefrontal cortex.4 Having coffee or a phone conversation with a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor, and/or making an appointment with a therapist or coach can help you find the clarity and creativity you need to problem solve (not to mention strengthening your professional relationships!).
The “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” approach sets your team up for failure.
This is one for the senior-level managers and the C-Suite: you may think you are eliminating whining, but this comes at a cost. To create the necessary solutions to complex business problems, you need an array of talented people with diverse points of view. To get these points of view from them, there needs to be a culture of safety and open communication. You won’t get it with the solutions-only approach. In fact, you’ll get the opposite — a culture of employees who have shut down in fear and problems that will stay hidden until they blow up into a full crisis. Instead, engage in those nitty-gritty conversations with your team, encourage ideas even if a solution isn’t immediately obvious, and set gentle boundaries that keep the discussion in “problem statement“ mode to avoid unproductive complaining or whining (sticking to objective facts, investigating underlying factors and causes, and acknowledging everyone’s role in creating the problem, yours included!).1
If you’re looking for some like-minded marketers in the Philadelphia area to have real, face-to-face conversations with, join us at AMA Philadelphia’s “Marketing Mix” on May 19th at Love City Brewing! Make connections with local marketers and AMA members from the Philadelphia area, all for an admissions fee of $15 (FREE for AMA members!). For details and tickets click here.
1. Nawaz, Sabina. “The Problem with Saying ‘Don’t Bring Me Problems, Bring Me Solutions’,” Harvard Business Review, Sept 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/09/the-problem-with-saying-dont-bring-me-problems-bring-me-solutions. Accessed April 29, 2022.
2. Holz-Clause, Mary. “Good Communication Can Help Solve Problems,” Iowa State Extension and Outreach, n.d., https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wholefarm/html/c6-56.html. Accessed April 29, 2022.
3. Ravenscraft, Eric. “Why Talking About Our Problems Helps So Much (and How to Do It),” The New York Times, Apr 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/03/smarter-living/talking-out-problems.html. Accessed, May 1, 2022.
4. Lieberman, Matthew, Eisenberger, Naomi, Crockett, Molly, et al. “Putting Feelings into Words: Affect Labeling Disrupts Amygdala Activity in Response to Affective Stimuli,” Psychological Science. May 2007, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17576282/. Accessed May 1, 2022.