Leadership….And Problem Solving
In the second installation of our series “Leadership Simplified”, I’d like to talk about something we all face on a daily basis: business problems. Elbert Hubbard, a great American writer and philosopher, once said, “The person with no more problems to solve is out of the game”.
Problems in any business environment come in many forms, including people (i.e. performance, communication), technology (speed, security, computer crashes, non-functionality), customers (some never satisfied), financial (missed budgets), and vendors (missed deadlines, poor quality).
Effective leaders take a disciplined approach to problem solving, no matter what that problem is. There isn’t one specific method or map that leaders utilize to solve problems, but there are, however, innate and acquired skills that leaders lean on to manage problem solving efficiently. They are:
- Sense of Humor
- Mental Preparation
You’ll often find in any business or organization, certain individuals that seem to have the ability to resolve problems more easily than others. And you might wonder why that is. Is it because of a specific type of personality or set of unique characteristics? Sure, that might be a component. But, there is overwhelming evidence to support the claim that problem solving has less to do with who you are, and more to do with the processes you use to solve. In the book Leadership When the Heat is On (Danny Cox), the author describes the most critical part of problem solving as, “whether you are mentally prepared, committed, and have an iron clad contract with yourself that you will find a sound resolution”. In this case, a good problem-solver doesn’t have any superior personal qualities, rather he or she is committed to the idea that through the right process, a solution to any problem can be uncovered.
For leaders, the basic steps to problem solving are simple. They are:
- Identify the problem.
- Gather the data relevant to the problem.
- Create a list of realistic options (solutions) that could solve the problem.
- Vet each option, asking about the overall viability, affordability, ease of implementation, how well the solution will work, and the chance of the problem reoccurring.
- Get others’ opinions on the solution you have selected.
- Implement the solution.
Remember, problems should never be feared. Rather, leaders should learn to face them and embrace them, all while knowing that the next problem likely isn’t far away. In many instances, developing real solutions to problems is how businesses evolve and innovate. As Elbert Hubbard also said, “If life gives you lemons, open up a lemonade stand”. The solution to your business problem is likely not as easy as opening a lemonade stand; however, we can find solace in the simplicity of Hubbard’s saying, and we can learn to embrace issues we face every day that help us to become stronger and more effective leaders.