Are You Developing Problem Reporters or Problem Solvers?

“I know this is terrible to say, but I don’t want Larry on my executive team. He sucks the energy out of the room. Brad, the previous director who managed Larry, was great, but Larry exhausted him! I know Larry wants to become a director and I really can’t fault his performance. It’s just him. He’ll kill the energy and culture we’ve developed as an executive team this past year and I won’t jeopardize that.” That may sound a bit dramatic, but it’s a very real issue one of my clients is dealing with – as are many other leaders: What do you do with a team member – or in this case a manager – who sucks the energy out of the room?

What do you do with a team member who sucks the energy out of the room?

My client, John, a CEO, has worked hard for the past two years in reshaping his executive team and creating a culture that is strategic and collaborative – a complete 180 from where it had been when he took over. However, Larry’s division doesn’t have a seat in the c-suite. For years it’s been buried under another division whose director is in the c-suite. Now, given the numerous strategic changes and enhancements made over the past two years, it’s becoming more and more apparent that Larry’s division should have a direct seat in the c-suite with a leader on the executive team. So, what should John do when a manager’s personality is holding their advancement opportunities back? Identify the specific behaviors of concern and eliminate the generalizations.

Identify the specific behaviors of concern and eliminate the generalizations.

John said he had no complaints with Larry’s performance. In fact, he said, “Larry gets the job done. However, his negativity has caused a few good team members to leave in recent months.” When I asked for more specifics, John also shared, “Larry is great working with the customers. They love him! However, when he then interacts with other members of the management team, Larry will regurgitate a list of customer complaints to the other managers and expect them to fix them. He’s then irritated when the other divisions don’t jump to meet his needs. Larry’s never satisfied and complains about everyone and every division.” Ok, now we’ve uncovered the behaviors that create problems for his team and the other managers: Larry’s acting like a problem reporter and not a problem solver.

We uncovered the behaviors that create problems for his team and other managers: He acts like a problem reporter and not a problem solver.

With that understanding, it’s relatively easy to understand why Larry would struggle as an effective c-suite executive. Managers, and especially executives in the c-suite, need to understand not only what their division does, but how it interacts with, impacts, and can leverage the work of every other division to further its own initiatives and those of the other divisions. Managers also need to be able to predict, identify, and resolve problems constantly – and quickly if possible. In addition to that, managers are also responsible for creating and managing positive work environments for their team members. Larry’s not succeeding in any of those areas. Why? Is it because he’s not been expected to before? Possibly. Is he unable? That could be the case too. Regardless of the cause, it’s where Larry is now, and as a result where his division is, buried within the organizational hierarchy.

So how does John fix this? Help Larry instead of continuing to avoid him. Have Larry’s Director work with him and provide him the support needed to understand the specific changes needed in his performance. At a bare minimum, make Larry aware of the issues his behaviors cause others. If he’s willing to learn different behaviors, help Larry learn to not only identify problems, but to develop solutions – or potential solutions – instead of expecting the other managers to do so. Help Larry learn to identify opportunities to leverage the work – and potential innovative solutions – of other divisions that could help their customers in new and different ways. And finally, help Larry learn to model behaviors that create a workplace culture his team members want to be a part of.

Regardless of whether or not Larry is ultimately the right person to fill a director’s seat in the C-Suite to effectively represent his division, he’s still a manager and team member now. As such, Larry still needs to enhance his performance for his own, his team’s, and his colleagues’ benefit.

If you’ve got a team member or manager who is a problem reporter and not a problem solver, are you working with them to develop the needed skills, or are you avoiding them and the challenges they pose?

What type of team members are you developing?


Copyright MMXXIII – Liz Weber, CMC, CSP – Weber Business Services, LLC – +1.717.597.8890

Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about Liz on LinkedIn!



Liz Weber CMC CSP

Liz Weber CMC

Liz Weber coaches, consults, and trains leadership teams. She specializes in strategic and succession planning, and leadership development.

Liz is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designations.

Contact Liz’s office at +1.717.597.8890 for more info on how Liz can help you, or click here to have Liz’s office contact you.



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