There are two things that I find to be true with problem solving. One is that we never seem to have enough time to truly fix the problem and instead create band-aids that lose their stickiness very quickly. The second thing is that people often create problems so they can be the one to solve them. Both of these actions divert us from our real purpose of developing sustainable actions that grow our business. As a result of our lack of attention to the problems we find ourselves in a Groundhogs Day like loop dealing with the same problems over and over.
As a leader one of your primary goals is to minimize problems and create a sustainable momentum for the organization and the people you serve. In order to do that effectively you must confront problems head-on before you are in a situation where you are forced to have to do so. I like the analogy of the cockroach that says “when you shine a light the coach roaches run”, as a leader your light needs to be one found in a lighthouse that is bright enough for ships at sea to see. Shining your light will allow you to easily identify the people in your organization who complicate matters with their corporate politicking, self-promotion, power-trips, self-serving interests and envy. In addition to those negative behaviors, silos, lack of budgets and resources and a plethora of other random circumstances are also the enemy of a productive workplace.
The internal drivers of problems are unacceptable; the outside drivers of problems are to be expected. Competitors taking your clients, executing your ideas better, launching new products or brand strategies also create a lot of problems for leaders. Where are you spending your problem-solving time? You have far more control over the internal challenges than you do for the external ones. Shine your light.
The best leaders solve problems because they have the patience to step back and observe the problem with a more circular vision. Seeing beyond the obvious, the best leaders are more equipped to see the holistic view of the problem including the dependencies and consequences of the outcomes.
Leaders who have not yet developed this wisdom focus on what is laying right in front of them are incapable of seeing the possibilities that could come from the problem. As such, they never see the entirety that the problem represents. They deny that problems can act as enablers that would improve SOP, best practices and growth in their highly competitive marketplace. The most unfortunate effect of this is that these leaders never realize all problems are the same, that they just have different appearances.
Continuous improvement was huge in the 1990’s but isn’t talked about as much today. A leader must view problems less as a distraction and more as a means to enable opportunities and continuous improvement.
Leaders are faced with problems every day. Some of those problems could result in the loss of a client. In fact a great deal of the problems leader face usually center around profit, market share, product development or any other thing that would cause the company to stop growing. Rather than panicking when faced with those types of problems great leaders take a problem solving approach. This should result if an all-out change management effort. This also requires you to be more proactive and may need to include a financial investment. These actions will demonstrate that you are capable of solving problems and could gain trust with clients involved
When problem solving becomes seamless you can safely say you have great leadership problem-solving skills. Seamless problem solving enables people and the organization to demonstrate continuous improvement. Conversely if problem solving is creating more chaos you have a leadership deficiency, shine your light.
Change your thinking about problem solving. Allow it to become an enabler of growth and opportunity. Demonstrate maturity, courage and accountability in your leadership when solving problems. There are many lessons to be learned from failures and through failures come the best opportunities, if you allow yourself to see though the problem.
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