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How to Handle “Silver Platter” Syndrome

February 18th, 2016

Are you taking back your team’s work?218px-Mint_Julep2

I had a client who was good at solving problems. He was so good at it that he unintentionally trained his team and customers to bring their problems to him for resolution. For every question, request or issue, Dave prided himself on having the answer and finding the solution. He was so overwhelmed with other people’s work that he had little time to focus on new business opportunities.

He had what I call “Silver Platter” Syndrome.

Maybe you have it yourself. You want to be helpful, and it’s ego-boosting to be viewed as the problem-solver. If you cultivate that perception, as Dave did, your steam and customers will see their problems as valuable to you.  And they’ll present those issues to you on a silver platter. Here’s how to break the cycle – and resolve issues.

Four Simple Steps

Most “Silver Platter” situations can be resolved with four simple steps. The steps are consistent, although the sequence in which you choose to use them may vary.

State the Facts: Clarify the facts about the situation as you/others currently understand it.

Listen: Avoid stepping in with a solution. Let others do the talking – even if that means waiting patiently through awkward silences.

Ask Questions: Help others clarify the issues, explore options and choose the best alternative. Keep your questions focused on how they can solve their own problem without taking it on yourself.

Set Expectations: Clarify the responsibilities and decisions that you are delegating and the specific timelines for getting them done. Mutually agree on interim status reports.

The chart below describes common situations and how to apply these steps.


Your Team Has/Says:


Missed a deadline.


“I assume you’ll do this?”


“I have a problem.”



Step 1



State the Facts

Example: “The assessment deadline is today. The assessment is not complete.”



Set Expectations





Step 2


Keep silent and let the other person(s) talk.


Ask Questions



State the Facts






Step 3


Ask Questions

Examples: What are the issues? What are your options for getting this done? What do you think is your best option? How can this option be executed?








Ask Questions



Step 4


Set Expectations

Example: “Based on your best option, you’ll get it done by 5:00 today. Let me know how it’s going at 2:00.”



(Re)State the Facts



Set Expectations


As Dale Carnegie challenged more than 80 years ago, “Don’t you have much more faith in ideas that you discover for yourself than in ideas that are handed to you on a silver platter?” One of the best ways to develop leadership skills, for yourself and others, is not solving their problems for them.