problem versus solution sign

Fifteen years ago when I worked in the corporate world, one of the executive used to frequently say “don’t bring me problems … bring me solutions” to the senior leaders in the organization.

While I heard him say this on numerous occasions, I didn’t initially know how I really felt about these words.  On one hand, they seemed somewhat edgy and unsupportive.

On the other hand, the words “don’t bring me problems … bring me solutions” were always in my head when I was working with my executive client groups – especially this particular executive.  His words caused me to have more awareness and think differently.  I put more effort into conducting research and looking at the best practices of other organizations.  I became very conscious and focused on “bringing solutions” which ultimately led to a new way of working with my executive clients over time as an internal consultant.

Today what I like about “don’t bring me problems … bring me solutions” is the expectation for employee accountability that they establish.  At the end of the day, people in the workplace are paid to think, solve problems, and get results.  It is each person’s responsibility to be creative, identify options and bring forward solutions.  This concept aligns with the ICF’s definition of coaching where the coaching role is to solicit client-generated solutions.

I believe that the expectation for solutions that he communicated, helped me take my own performance as a consultant to a higher level and definitely contributed to my overall success.  I was consciously developing a solution-focused mindset and didn’t even know it at the time.  He was a great leader!

I share this “don’t bring me problems … bring me solutions” story as a real-life practical way to start creating a coaching culture with the people you work with – and it balances both a managing-mindset and coaching-mindset in the workplace:

  1. Managing Mindset:  Communicate the expectation that employees are accountable for identifying solutions and solving their own problems (hold employees accountable), and
  2. Coaching Mindset:  Use the coach-approach to engage people in exploring options, developing solutions, and designing plans for forward action (hold employees capable).

 “Don’t bring me problems … bring me solutions” is really about about transferring the ownership for problem solving and the development of solutions to the employee.  This solution-focused mindset will help build highly capable, engaged and accountable employees at all levels.

 “We are not saying to deny or ignore problems.  What we are saying is that if you want to transform a situation, relationship, an organization, or community, focusing on strengths is much more effective than focusing on problems … shifting attention from problems to possibilities.”  Diana Whitney, Co-author of The Power of Appreciative Inquiry


Shana Ring

Shana Ring is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), President of Destination Leadership, and Founder of the EXPEDITION Coaching Program. She focuses on providing leadership coaching, coaching training, and consulting in the area of coaching and culture change, succession planning, leadership development and organizational effectiveness.


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