Which are you better at: solving
problems, or preventing
People who solve
problems are critical to the success of any organization. Bosses tend to adore skilled problem-solvers and rely on them continually - which can be a problem in and of itself. But Problem-Solvers tend to enjoy a higher profile than most. They're often seen as heroes by the Big Dogs and, as such, tend to get bigger raises and bonuses, as well.
People who prevent
problems, though, are even more
critical to the success of an organization - even if their accomplishments do
tend to be unnoticed, overlooked and undervalued. Not having a problem costs organizations far less than cleaning one up.
Why then the disparity in reputations?
The main difference is that while the Big Dogs accept that problems occur and need to be cleaned up, they often never realize that a particular crisis was averted.
Needless to say, they also tend to not realize that the non-event resulted from the Problem Preventer's sterling efforts. Simply put, they don't know if they don't know.
So how can a professional Problem Preventer increase the profile of his/her success without being seen as making much ado about nothing? Here are a few ideas:
1. Keep your bosses updated on the issues you're working to prevent - Don't assume s/he doesn't care. And don't assume s/he already knows.
"Hey boss, don't know if you know about this or not, but in doing a routine audit of my department I found something I want to take a closer look at ..."
2. Don't make it look so easy - Let the Big Dogs know that the situation you're dealing with is fraught with danger, mon cherie. Discuss the ramifications of it actually becoming a problem and what you're doing to prevent those ramifications from happening.
"Yes, Big Dogs, while it's great how well our proposal was received, I'm getting a huge push-back from the customer on some contract specifics that could significantly impact our ability to actually close the deal ..."
3. Talk about the forks in the road - No doubt the situation you're facing is complex and nuanced. Seek input from the Big Dogs as to what route makes the most sense given the circumstances. Show them, through requesting their counsel and the dialogue that ensues, that you've got a brain and you're not afraid to use it.
"So, Big Dogs, I want to get your insights at this specific juncture because depending on the Bigger Picture, what looks good to me might not look good for you. As example, should my strategy focus more on ways to reduce costs, or increase revenues ... or just positively affecting the bottom line? ..."
4. Share the Good News - Wipe the sweat off your brow and send a Success Story up the chain. Even better, get someone else to tell your boss what a great job you did to prevent something terrible from happening.
"Hey boss, get a load of this: Remember how we wanted to help Stuart get off to a fast start in his new position as department head? Well I hired an executive coach for him and it's already paying dividends. He dodged a huge bullet in a staff meeting yesterday and came off smelling like a rose ..."
... or better yet ...
(To your boss from one of Stuart's direct reports) "I think Stuart's going to help us do good things - he's not afraid to say what needs to be said. Thanks for promoting him."
Don't underestimate the value of preventing problems before they occur. But don't underestimate the value in increasing the profile of these non-event
Labels: Success at Work