You’re trying to motivate an employee who struggles to make sense of a complicated problem. He’s getting discouraged because all roads seemingly lead to a dead end.
To refocus this individual on positive problem solving, shift his perspective. Instead of allowing him to get bogged down in pressing details or deadline pressures, shift his attention to the long-term organizational objective.
Ask, “A year from now, how do you foresee this problem resolving itself?” or “What do you see as the long-range goal here? What’s at stake over the long haul?”
Whether you realize it or not, these are tremendously motivating questions. They liberate your staff to look beyond the frustrating minutiae to the larger issues that matter most.
As Scott Witt writes in How to Be Twice as Smart, “Set your sights on the long-range goal and examine alternative ways of reaching it.” By starting from the endpoint and guiding your employee to work backward to figure out an action plan, you begin from a base of mutual understanding.
In essence, you give your employee permission to stop worrying about today’s intractable irritants so that tomorrow’s broader mission gets accomplished. The excitement that comes with envisioning the achievement of this long-term goal can in itself trigger more creative solutions for the immediate future.