Are you an executor or a problem solver?

Do you need to have answers to all your questions from the customer before you start work? Or do you prefer that you’re given a rough idea, which you’ll make something of? Neither of these approaches is right or wrong, good or bad. However, I’ve realized that executors and problem-solvers work best with two different kinds of customers.

The executor needs someone who knows exactly what they want. They work well with customers who come with something specific that they need done — a clear, intentional brief, and precise instructions.

The problem-solver, on the other hand, needs a customer who can give them the freedom and the space to do what they think is right for the customer. The idea will be generic and it’s on you to figure the what, why and how.

Choose your clients based on what your work style is.

  • If you’re an executor and meet with a problem-solver’s customer, the two of you will irritate the living daylights out of each other.

  • If you’re a problem-solver, and if the customer comes and gives you exact specifics, you’ll feel constrained.

Like I said earlier, there is no right / wrong, good / bad, high-value / low-value in this. One can be a problem-solver in a small project like writing a blog post. One can also be an executor of large-scale tech projects. Many vice president and director-level folks execute. Many freshers solve problems.

Being a problem-solver or executor is a temperament. But, this isn’t only on you. In several organisations, employees might not have the space or resources to solve problems, and therefore remain executors, even when their temperament is otherwise.

So, go back, look through all the projects that you’ve done in the past, and identify what kind of projects have left you the most fulfilled. Fit yourself somewhere in the spectrum between executor and problem-solver, and use that as a measure while considering prospects.

Ask questions to identify what kind of customer your prospect will be.

  • Check if they have structures already set up to guide your work. This could be style guides, existing briefs etc.

  • Ask if they have literature you can replicate.

  • Do they know what they need or are they exploring options? (Remember they’ll say they know. It’s on you to verify if they really do.)

  • Will a subject matter expert work with you or will you be on your own?

  • Will they give you written briefs or will they just talk on a call?

Basically, understand how many of your questions already have answers. And decide if you’ll need to solve problems or just execute.