Seems like a pretty cut-and-dried decision, right? Do you take orders all day or do you help people solve their business or personal challenges? Are you like the person behind the counter at the local fast food joint or more like a salesperson for a high-tech company that supplies the military with satellite navigational devices? You’d think the fast food person pretty much takes orders and the high-tech guy is a problem solver, right? But don’t judge a job by its description.
While it’s rare, I’ve seen people in restaurants who are born salespeople. They are smiling when they ask for your order and suggest options other than “would you like fries with that order?” They make it easy to place your order, they’re efficient and say “thank you” as they deliver your order. Chick fil-A does an amazing job of training their frontline people and other chains have taken notice. On the other hand, I’ve seen supposed big-time salespeople who simply take the order for products or services from a procurement manager. No questions, no up-selling; though they may at least remember to say “thank you.”
What differentiates someone as an order taker or problem solver in life? Can you be trained to be a problem solver or are these attributes something you’re born with? Do you recognize in yourself any of the five traits below that all problem solvers tend to have?
A desire to help others: Order takers want to be helpful as long as they don’t have to do much to make that happen. Problem solvers have a true desire in their heart to help others. They will go above and beyond to help their customers, friends and family solve the challenges that arise and will do it with a smile as big as the Grand Canyon. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers, always looking for new ideas around which they can create a business. Problem solvers are always asking, “what if” questions as they look for solutions. What if you do C instead of A or B, or what if you substitute this ingredient for that one. “What if” questions help you think outside the box and find new solutions for old problems.
No whining: Problem solvers don’t whine. If one option doesn’t work, it’s on to another and another and another until they find one. But to whine would be counter-productive and wouldn’t get them any closer to helping others find creative solutions. As Anthony J. D’Angelo said,“If you have time to whine and complain about something, then you have time to do something about it.” It’s said that Thomas Edison tried and failed 10,000 times before finding the solution to the electric light bulb. Instead of whining, Edison said each failure showed him what wouldn’t work and brought him that much closer to a solution.
I’d say I fall into both categories of order taker and problem solver. While I’m more than willing to be an order taker if that’s all I think an opportunity offers, my best work is done when I’m working to solve a problem. That’s when the creative juices kick in, when I’m most enthusiastic, and when my customers can see I’m there to help them with their challenges and to make them look like heroes.
The need for problem solvers is at an all-time high as the world grows more and more complex. In the new era of a pandemic, what used to work is very often outdated and needs to be altered. Traditional promotional products have taken a back seat now to PPE. Restaurants are learning how to make takeout orders their main source of revenue given the changing landscape of social distancing within a restaurant, if they can open at all.
If you continue to learn throughout life, go beyond the obvious, be creative and don’t whine, chances are you will be successful beyond your wildest dreams and help others along the way, too.