Leaders are often faced with recurring issues in their personal and in their professional lives.
On a daily basis, they fight to retain talent, to keep their businesses alive, to keep up with the market, to increase their return on investment, to deal with clients, to evolve and to encourage growth.
Problems arise when there is a discrepancy between reality and expectations, when leaders are unable to successfully reach their goals.
Their ability to anticipate and to solve problems will determine their success and will increase their chances for promotion.
Wondering how to acquire problem-solving skills?
What is problem-solving?
Problem-solving is a cognitive skill that is useful in challenging, problematic and uncertain situations that require resolution.
Problem-solving is uncomfortable, takes time, requires practice and need constant monitoring. This intuitive skill is also sharpened by mistakes and failures.
Furthermore, problems encourage growth and change in us. That is why problem-solving requires facing inner demons.
It also helps us acquire innovative skills, people skills, communication skills, data gathering, conflict management and analytical skills.
How to actually solve problems?
Leaders who are unable to effectively solve problems lack knowledge in their respective fields, don’t establish practical methods, don’t commit to one solution, fail to implement their vision or to understand the problem all together.
STEP #1 Work on your character
You cannot control most of the situations that you will face in life. However, you can control how you react to them. It is therefore necessary to work on your character and to:
- Know yourself, trust your intuition and understand that your ideas are valuable.
- Be mindful that problems arise every day and that you cannot solve everything all at once.
- Write down all the rules and core values that guide you so you can remember them in time of need.
- Be open-minded, explore other fields than your own and to frequent people from other industries.
- Educate yourself on your business. Read books and articles on your field.
- Avoid jumping to conclusions. Challenge your assumptions before you restrict your opportunities
- Be patient but take action before it’s too late and before the opportunity expires.
- Pay attention to other people’s opinion but don’t worry too much about the naysayers.
- Admit if you have made a mistake. Great leaders are able to face issues without shifting blame and shifting values.
- Embrace change and avoid criticizing new ideas.
- Welcome failure. Don’t beat yourself up or don’t blame yourself for failure. Most successes or most innovations have broken through from failures.
STEP #2 Defining & Understanding the problem
Problems are synonymous with difficulty, issue, trouble, worry, complication, obstacle or setback. Problems trigger fight or flight response when handling a problematic situations.
There is no need to immediately appear decisive or to impress people. You must first define and understand the problem:
- Get the information about the problem.
- Identify the complexity, the symptoms, effects and root causes of the problem.
- Take time to reflect on your situation and to observe.
- Talk to the people implicated in the situation.
- Look for patterns and for trends.
- Find analogies to your situation that can help spark ideas.
- Reverse the problem: find the opposite problem or envision a worse problem.
STEP #3 Solutioning
Anticipating problems is the best option. But, the key is to staying focused or finding a solution. You must be able to study all the possible solutions of the problem:
- Explore all ideas even if you think that they won’t work.
- Suggest solutions that would make the problem worse.
- Think about your past experiences when you have been put in sticky situations. It can be a conflict with your coworkers, It can be a discussion with your clients or situations with your family.
- Look at what is being done by experts and evaluate the opposite solution.
- Ask for help from people around you. You can use brainstorming, mind mapping or road mapping techniques.
- Remove yourself from the situation to clear your mind and gain a different perspective.
- Break down the situation into simpler components.
- Write down pros and cons of the solutions.
- Clarify the criteria that your solution must meet.
- Test the feasibility of the solution.
- Organize your thoughts and pick the solution that will maximize your return.
STEP #4 Making a decision
When you have evaluated all the solutions, it’s time to make a decision. One decision is better than none.
- Look up the “unwritten rules“ that you are about to break before making a decision.
- Weigh in the consequences of your decisions. Rapid decisions can have serious implications, especially if you are a leader. So, be aware of the economic, social, political challenges of your decisions.
- Luckily, the leader does not have to resolve every problem on their own. To make better decisions, involve your team in the decision-making process. However, the final decisions is up to you.
- Seek to solve the problem long-term.
- Take the necessary time to make the right decision. You don’t need to impress or to act fast, you need to act right.
STEP #5 Executing the decision
After finding the perfect solution and making your decision, start implementing it:
- Set goals and deadlines that align with your goals.
- Keep your goals in mind.
- Focus on the outcomes of the solution and visualize the best scenario.
STEP #6 Measuring your progress & Monitoring the problem
Unfortunately, problems don’t solve themselves and can grow as time passes by. If the roots of the problem still persist:
- Assess the impact of your current decision.
- Reward yourself if your solution is bringing positive results.
- If your plan doesn’t work, cut the losses and get back up.
- Ask for additional help.
- Execute your plan B if you have one. Revisit the problem, start over the solving process otherwise.
- Take a break before moving on to the next problem.
Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!
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