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The Art Of Effective Problem Solving – For You And Your Team

There is no doubt that the skill of problem-solving is incredibly useful. All effective leaders are able to find solutions to problems; the greatest leaders are those who develop the skill within every member of their team. They encourage people to see problems as potential opportunities.

Look at any significant development in science or technology – the vast majority arose from some perceived difficulty. It was when faced with a specific problem that the creative juices began to flow and a solution was eventually found. The paradox of war is that out of the destruction were many creative and positive developments.

When facing any difficulty it is helpful to consider the following questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • Why is it a problem?
  • What is the desired outcome?
  • How will you know when you have achieved it?
  • What else in - your life / within the organization / for the customer .. will improve once you achieve your outcome?
  • What resources to you already have at your disposal or could call upon to help you achieve your desired outcome?
  • What is something similar you have already done which will help you achieve the outcome you want? 
  • What is the first step I need to take towards solving this problem?
  • Who do I need to involve – how and when?

Developing the skill of problem-solving within your team is in itself a problem – or opportunity. Creating a team of people who are proactive and confident is the task of the proactive manager.

Some of your team will naturally look for solutions, others will look for others to solve their problems. How can you ensure that all your team can operate effectively whatever the situation?

Create a culture that is supportive of people developing the skills. Be clear about your expectations of them, but put in place supportive structures to help them develop confidence and competence.

Those who have just joined your organization straight from university will need to understand the implications of any actions they make take – or not. This is particularly pertinent when looking at the fiscal or legal implications of any situation. 

Consider how members of your team will learn about this:

  • Through a structured induction programme that has been designed to cover major points, it offers strategies for problem solving in the context of our department / organization
  • Someone is expected to give general support – no clear structure in place
  • They will learn by experience – we’ll sort it out when things go wrong

If a member of staff attempts to solve a problem – what is your response?

  • If things go right we celebrate
  • If they get it right – that’s ok, it is kudos for the Department
  • If they make a mistake – I give them a balling out – they have let the department down
  • If they make a mistake I know I can’t trust them so give the responsibility to someone else
  • I use the situation as an opportunity to look at what went well and how they might do even better in the future. We look at the wider implications for them, the team, the organization and our clients / customers

Tried and Tested Strategies For Developing Problem Solving Skills

The language you use is really important, if you ask people for their ideas for a solution to the problem as a matter of course they will “think in solution mode.”

It is useful to give people “What if?” scenarios as part of their training. What would you do if……. Once they have offered you their solution discussion what was positive about it, what the implications might be of taking that action in the short, medium and long term. What would have been even better if? 

Don’t wait for a problem to arise, talk to members of your team about what to do in different situations. This is time wisely invested, particularly if you also discuss

When feeding back, never use sarcasm or ridicule even if they are really wide of the mark, or they will stop trying.

Give credit where it is due. Good leaders are more interested in the ongoing development of the team rather than scoring points to prove they are the best.

Some useful questions which can be adapted to use in training or feedback situations:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. What is the real issue here?
  3. Who is likely to be affected? 
  4. What are the implications for you individually? This department? Our organization? Our clients? Our reputation?
  5. What would be the ideal outcome? Why?
  6. How will you know if you have achieved it?
  7. What needs to happen?   In what order? What is the likely impact of doing things in that order?   
  8. Who do you need to communicate with? What style of communication would be most appropriate?
  9. Who needs to be involved? Why?
  10. What would be the implications of a specific action taken or taking no action, for health and safety / legal / financial / and reputation?
  11. Think about the timing of your communications and actions? What are your priorities and why?
  12. What resources have you at your disposal to solve this problem?
  13. What is something similar you have already done which will help you achieve the outcome you want? 
  14. Who might you go to for help and support?
  15. What are the limits of your authority / accountability in this situation?
  16. Is there any training needs identified?

Maybe you need *me* to help you solve your problems?

If you need any further assistance with figuring out how to solve your problems or help with becoming an Enlightened Leader, then there are lots of free resources and content, plus a fully CPD Accredited training programme that may just be perfect for you. Just head over to my website HERE.

 

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