Are You Trying to Solve Problems by Talking Too Much?

The person Chief Executive Magazine named as CEO of the year for 2018 was announced earlier this year as Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson, chairman, president and CEO. She is also an industrial engineer.

When she took over, she identified Lockheed’s approach to customer service as an “engineering approach, often talking more than listening.” That statement took me by surprise, but, when I thought about it, this comment may be true of any skilled problem-solver in any profession.

Take a moment to think about your approach when asked about a problem:

Do you launch into outlining a solution using your skill, experience and knowledge? I know I do and it doesn’t always solve the problem.

Leaders fall into this trap too.

There is an old story set during the emerging manufacturing era that we can learn from:

The plant manager was asked why a new and very expensive machine had started producing piles of scrap.

The manager quickly explained the problem as the inexperienced machine operators running the additional two shifts and the heat generated by longer shifts of running the machine. The solutions to these problems didn’t change a thing.

Had they asked the machine operator, who had been running the machine successfully for months prior to the poor production, they would have heard the real reason. There had been a change in supplier of raw materials that lowered the quality of material put into the machine, causing a higher rate of poor product being manufactured.

When the company reverted to the higher quality raw material the problem was solved.

Are you solving problems by talking too much? As a leader, you may feel the responsibility and pressure to have the answers. Challenge your desire to give the answers by first asking questions of your team members.

Learning and listening are two great leadership skills.

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