I once had a direct report who brought me every problem he encountered. He would describe them to me and then sit and wait for me to “give him the answer.” At times I think he was stumped. Most of the time he just wanted to cover his butt or be able to blame the decision on me if someone complained. This went on for about a month, when finally I asked him: “What is your recommendation for how we should handle this?” He looked surprised and said he didn’t have one. I told him to come back when he did–that if I had to solve all his problems for him, that I really didn’t need him. It took him a while, but he came back.
A wise man once told me that you get promoted by bringing your boss solutions, rather than problems. Think about it this way–every manager or leader has plenty of problems. They don’t need you to bring them more. What they are really short on is solutions. Providing people solutions gets you noticed. Being a reliable provider of solutions, gets you promoted.
This is why we put such a heavy emphasis on developing student problem-solving skills in business schools. The more difficult (and inherently risky) problems you can solve, the more they will need you, and the farther you will go. Don’t leave here without developing the ability to solve problems–the more wicked, the better.