“My ultimate goal in life is to make more money and work less.  
As a result, I like to surround myself with people who make my life easier.”

As I made my way up the corporate ladder, I noticed an odd thing taking place.  It seemed that there were quite a few people who seemed to be actively trying to make my life harder. They usually held titles like Partner or Director or Client or Wife.  Now I don’t believe these people were consciously sabotaging me in any way (at least I hope they weren’t - although I did have my suspicions about a few of them), but anyone that knows me knows that I love to fix problems.  As a result, it sure seemed like I received a lot of problems to work on.

As a young analyst, I noticed that whenever I came to my manager with an issue that I needed his input on, the first question he always asked me was “So what do you think we should do?”  At first, I was always annoyed by that question - if I knew what to do, why am I coming to you for advice?  Isn’t that why they are paying you the big bucks?  But as I made it to the management ranks, I found myself asking the exact same question to the analysts that were reporting to me - “So what do you think we should do?”

And that’s when it hit me.  The reason my manager was asking me that question wasn’t because he didn’t know what to do (he quite often did) - it was because since I discovered the problem, I was much closer to understanding it and the root cause(s) than he could possibly be from a few minutes of discussion.  And if I was a good analyst, I should have already evaluated a few options and eliminated the ones that didn’t make sense or wouldn’t work - because I would be basing my decisions based on the evidence that I knew and not on the assumptions that my manager would be making.

There were a lot of times where my analysts would come to me with a problem and when I asked them that simple question - “So what do you think we should do?” - they would hem and haw or stare at the wall or something like that.  During those times, I would often give them a perplexing look.  I’m sure many of them were thinking to themselves - “Oh great, Ed doesn’t understand what I’m talking about”.  Quite the contrary.  When I gave them that perplexing look, I was thinking two things:

  1. Who in the world hired this person?
  2. This person is making my life harder - how do I get this person out of my life?

A lot of my future project staffing decisions were made asking that one question.  Just remember that the next time your manager gives you a perplexing look.

So as you are starting your career, always remember this - don’t come to me with only problems.  I have enough problems in my life.  I don’t need someone to give me more problems.  Come to me with problems and possible solutions and then let’s talk.  And if you’d like to help me out with my “Honey Do” list that my other boss (the Wife) has assigned to me, that’d be greatly appreciated as well.


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8 months ago

Great post, Ed. Thanks for sharing!

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