Leaders are paid to solve problems | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Leaders are paid to solve problems

18 July, 2021

Problem solving is the essence of what leaders expected to do.  As leaders, the goal is to minimise the occurrence of problems – which means we must be courageous enough to tackle them head-on before circumstances force our hand.  We must be resilient in our quest to create and sustain momentum for the organisation and people we serve.

But the reality of the workplace  finds us dealing with people that complicate matters with their corporate politicking, self-promotion, power-plays and ploys, and envy. Silos, lack of budgets and resources, and many other random acts or circumstances also make it harder for people to be productive.

Problem-solving skills have value in many areas of life. Employers value employees who can solve problems without the need to always find a supervisor. Entrepreneurs may need to think outside the box to create a business that thrives and stands out from other similar businesses. 

You must first recognise there is a problem before you can solve it. If something doesn’t feel right or doesn’t provide the expected outcome, you may have a problem. Understand the circumstances and determine whether or not a problem exists.

If you are unclear as to what needs to be solved, then you are probably going to do the wrong thing and get the wrong results. 

In order to show an understanding of the problem, you, of course, need to assess and analyse the problem carefully.  Sounds simple enough, but some people jump the gun and try to start solving the problem before they have analysed and understood the problem in context. Continue to ask ‘why questions’ until you have a good understanding of the problem.

Explore options

Once you have explored the level of the problem, think through all the viewpoints, so you can find the best solution for it. Involve your team, if a team exists. Whenever there is a problem, ensure you can describe it equally well from each team member’s viewpoint. Take the time to come up with as many practical solutions as you can. Don’t discount answers at this stage. Take them all in and list them so you can explore all possible solutions.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and suggest solutions that may not be part of the standard process. Take your list and begin to weed out the impractical, so you can focus on the practical. If you have a team, you might suggest each team member takes one or two suggestions and investigate how that suggestion could correct the problem. Analyse the changes that would occur in the overall process, not just in the immediate problem. You don’t want to create a new problem with your solution - be careful!

Making a list of all the steps involved in your problem situation will help you identify possible consequences and missteps. You can also share solutions with other team members to see if others see potential benefits and risks you missed.

Make the right choice

Choose one or two possible solutions and implement them. You may want to implement solutions one at a time. Watch the situation and evaluate how your solution changes things. Careful observation may allow you to alter your choices quickly if the solution doesn’t solve the problem or creates changes you didn’t expect.

Keep track of problems you successfully solve in your current role. Your thinking and effective problem solving skill will help you advance in your career and your employer to benefit. 

A leader must never view a problem as a distraction, but rather as a strategic enabler for continuous improvement and opportunities previously unseen.