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5 Steps To Becoming A Better Problem Solver

Jan. 20, 2021 12:12 AM ET
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One of the most intrinsic values of a successful leader is problem solving. I’ve faced challenges both personally and professionally, and I’ve found that adopting a collaborative, people-centred approach is the most beneficial way to solve problems effectively.

While there are many ways to solve problems, with specific issues often requiring a unique, creative approach, there are many traits and practices that you can incorporate into your leadership style to help you become better at dealing with challenges.

Let’s dive in and take a look at five steps you can take to help you become a better problem solver.

1) Understand the Problem Fully

As obvious as it may seem, to solve a problem, you must first understand it. When things are going wrong at work, we can often get snowed under, and it can be tough to articulate precisely what is going wrong and why. Therefore, when faced with challenges, take a step back, evaluate the situation holistically, and look to understand it from various angles.

Let’s say a critical team in your department has missed their KPIs in the last quarter. You might immediately think the problem is due to underperformance stemming from complacency or a lack of technical ability. However, if you spend some time speaking to the team and understanding the reasons why they failed to meet their KPIs, you might find out some vital information that can help you get to the crux of the problem.

The team might tell you that they didn’t have the necessary software to complete specific tasks, for example. If this is the case, help to expedite operations by installing the required software for the next quarter and monitor the results thereafter. In this example, by understanding the core problem, you’ll be able to implement solutions immediately and effectively.

2) Be Thorough with Your Investigations

This goes hand-in-hand with the first point. Good leaders don’t make rash decisions based on assumptions. Sometimes problems can be extremely complex and aren’t all that they seem on the surface. There have been numerous instances in my career when I’ve sat down with an underperforming colleague to review their performance, and I’ve been surprised to hear what they’ve told me.

But to truly understand a complex problem that is affecting their work, you shouldn’t just rely on one source. It would help if you speak to as many people as possible to get varied perspectives, as this will help you make a more informed decision about how to proceed. Investigating a problem thoroughly prevents you from making rash judgment calls and helps you determine any deeper root causes of a particular problem.

3) Use Mistakes to Learn, Not to Punish

Mistakes are inevitable and a fundamental part of life. In our professional lives, many of the problems that we face could stem from a mistake made by someone else. This could be a small mistake like sending an email to the wrong person or a massive one like shutting down a whole production line.

The true value in a mistake is not the action itself, but what happens afterward. It would be easy to get angry at someone for their oversight or blunder, shout at them, and ridicule them in front of their colleagues, but will this fix anything?

Instead of punishing people, make time to sit down with them and understand why the mistake happened. Use this experience to make sure the person is in a better place to ensure the same error won’t be repeated.

If you develop the habit of using mistakes to learn and not to punish, you’ll become a much better problem solver, while also helping others in the team better spot their mistakes and correct errors themselves.

4) Think Outside the Box

Sometimes the solution to a problem is staring us in the face, and we don’t need to be overly creative to put the situation right. Other times, however, a solution may require a great deal of out-of-the box thinking.

If the solution doesn’t seem evident at first, allow yourself to get creative. Don’t be afraid to generate ideas that seem far-fetched, as often these will be the most likely to make a positive change. It might also be helpful to surround yourself with colleagues that you trust, as they can provide you with honest feedback about an idea’s feasibility and potential.

5) Communicate Honestly and Confidently

people sitting on chair in front of table while holding pens during daytime

In some instances, coming up with the solution can be the easiest part of problem solving. Communicating your answer is where it sometimes gets challenging, particularly if the solution is likely to be unpopular.

For example, you might be presented with data that shows you need to restructure your organisation and move people into different departments and even different job roles. This can be unsettling for many and can make them feel uncomfortable and even frustrated. But you know that it is the best solution for the problem that you’re currently faced with.

I’ve learned that communicating difficult news to colleagues isn’t always nice, but it is essential. Avoiding the issue altogether will only make it worse in the long term. The best way to communicate difficult news is to be clear, concise, and transparent when addressing your team. Clearly explain why you have come to a particular decision and then detail how it feeds into the organisation’s overarching objectives.

While your colleagues may not entirely agree with you or be happy with your reasoning, they will respect you for being transparent and honest, which is all you can ask for when making difficult calls.

To your success,


[Visit www.mariosingh.com now to enjoy a FREE e-book of my latest “37 Essential Principles for Massive Success” when you subscribe!]

Originally published at https://mariosingh.com

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