Each and every day as a Leader you will find yourself in the position of ‘problem solver’. Now this position as ‘problem solver’ is not always confined to your professional capacity. It could be in your role as parent, partner or sibling. You name the role and I am sure the opportunity has either already come about or is just waiting around the corner for you.
As with most things we discuss, the types of problems you will encounter will be wide and varied, as will your ability to resolve them.
This ability will be based upon many different aspects:
Previous personal experiences, learned skills, other situations you have heard about and, of course, everyday street smarts or common knowledge. You also might be drawing on your professional background and insight to solve many types of problems that, as I said earlier, may not be restricted to your professional domain.
Some of these problems that continue to be put out in front of you could be because of your own situation or actions. On the other hand, you might be in the position where others come to you for help, insight and guidance to solve the problems that they have seen develop around them.
You could have one of three responses. You might relish the opportunity to solve the problem that is being presented or the problem might seem quite challenging. In other cases, the problem might look almost impossible to overcome.
Whatever the response, everyone has a problem solving threshold: that is, the point where we know either that the problem cannot be solved or and probably more importantly that the problem cannot be solved by us.
This is a very important point for you to consider.
Is your problem solving threshold dependent upon your knowledge?
Is it based upon your level of self belief and self confidence?
Is it based upon the enormity of the individual problem, which in turn, will ask you to consider your knowledge, ability, self belief and levels of confidence?
I believe one of the most important aspects to understand is that it is better not to get involved in problem solving than to get involved in something that is beyond your ability.
Problem solving beyond your ability risks making the problem worse just because you have got involved or because you can't solve the problem.
One of the situations that I regularly hear from people is that they are always being asked to solve the problems of those around them.
My reply is always the same: Why?
Do people continue to come to you to solve their problems because of:-
1. Your knowledge
2. Your experience
3. Their lack of knowledge
4. Their lack of experience
5. Because it is easier to get you to solve the problem for them than it is for them to solve it themselves.
Now, with point five I don't mean this in a knowledge way but I mean it in a convenience way.
As long as you continue to do this you are creating a positive outcome: the problem is being resolved. But you are also, perhaps unknowingly, creating a few negatives.
The first one is, that they continue to come to you to solve their problems. You continue to do so and the cycle continues. It is not in their desire to have the cycle broken but it should be in yours.
Although it might be convenient for you to continue to solve their problems, it has no great long-term benefit to you, to them or to the situation.
This is because you are removing their power. Even worse, they don't know that this is happening or why it is not good for them.
Yes, your job is to see that these problems get resolved; however, this does not mean it has to be done by you. It is important for you to empower the people around you with the same skill-set you have to solve problems, though perhaps not to the same degree, or with the same level of experience or ability.
But, if they don't start the process of learning how to solve problems for themselves, they will soon find that they have no problem solving skills or, at best, they have a small ability to problem solve.
Ultimately what do you think this will do for their self confidence?
The simplest way to help someone when they come to you with a problem is to empower them to bring back to you some insight and ideas as to how the problem might be resolved.
Work your way through the situation until you have helped them come up with the right answer for the problem. The key is that you help them. You do not do it for them.
Take the time to point out to them the personal power they have shown in resolving the problem. Congratulate them for using this ability and for getting the problem resolved.
By doing this, you will empower them with an ability to problem solve. You will help them develop a confidence to continue to do things themselves. And you will create time that you can spend on doing other things. All in all, a win-win-win situation.
The journey continues!
© 2008 Total Performance Concepts Pty Ltd
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Bill Nelson is an elite international sporting coach who has turned his knowledge of developing peak team and individual performance into a world-class corporate consultancy, Total Performance Concepts Pty Ltd.
Bill's wisdom on the science of motivation, performance coaching and team building has been utilised by business organisations, defence forces, the real estate and telecommunications industries, educational institutions, local government, numerous businesses and elite sporting programs throughout the world.