Solve problems and report the results…

As a history buff, I found some real wisdom in a recent article about General George C. Marshall, a man highly revered for his management, wisdom, and consideration of others.

One week after Pearl Harbor, he placed then Col. Eisenhower in charge of military planning and operations. Here is Eisenhower’s recollection many years later.

Just before dismissing me, he gave me some brief instructions that I have never forgotten. I can repeat his words almost verbatim:

“Eisenhower,” he said, “the department is filled with able men who analyze their problems well but feel compelled always to bring them to me for a final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they have done.”

Although not at war, I had a similar experience in my career (before consulting.) Having just started a new job as a sales engineer, my new boss gave similar “marching orders.” Like Ike, I remember the words almost verbatim too:

“Daryl,” he said, “the only way you will get in trouble with me is if you sit on a problem too long. First, do whatever you need to do, but if you finally run into a brick wall, come get me. In the meantime, please take the ball and run with it and tell me about it later.”

My response was, “John, I think I’m going to like this job.”  And I did, only leaving the company to follow the dream of starting my consulting firm.

This is great advice for consultants too. It is not enough to merely identify problems. While you do need to keep the client “in the loop”, you must be ready to solve the problems and report the results!

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