How Do You Problem-Solve?

How do you solve problems? I never really thought about it before, until I encountered a problem that I couldn’t solve on my own. That’s when it all changed for and it involved some trial and error. Before this happened, my problem-solving methods were pretty simple, but problematic. I encountered a problem, solved it without really talking to anyone, and moved on. If a problem arose from the one that I just solved, I repeated my steps. I moved like this for a while, which is why it is was problematic. I didn’t see encountering problems as something that was a part of my job. In other words, I did not see problem solving as something that I was supposed to do on a regular basis. I thought problems arising was a nuisance, not part of my role or a part of my development. That attitude can drastically change how a problem (or opportunity as some see it) is handled.

However, as time progressed, roles expanded, and my knowledge and maturity grew, my methods changed. What I’ve learned from others over time is that problem-solving is a large part of everyday life. Look at it this way:  If you’re not solving a problem, you’re teaching and encouraging someone else how to solve a problem without you. It was when I began encouraging and teaching others’ ways to solve problems that I truly learned how to effectively problem solve.

Look at the big picture: Before tackling any problem, it’s important to see it from a above. Look at the big picture. What does the problem seem to be? Who are the players? What’s the time span? What seems to be the issue at this point?

Ask questions to multiple people: Next, talk to the players involved to get their story surrounding the supposed issue. I say supposed issue because the issue you believe to be present may not be the real one. Once you talk to all players, you’ll be able to do the next thing.

Identify and name the problem:  Now you’ve talked to key people (even those who may not have been involved, but heard rumors), so you can identify and name the problem. Believe it or not, this isn’t the hard part.

Do some research: This step especially needs to be completed if the issue you are handling is new to you. Have other organizations dealt with the same challenge as you?  How did they deal with it? Who was involved? It’s great to see how other places (especially those different from yours) created solutions in creative and innovative ways.

Ask others: There have been many times where I called on current and former colleagues to help me figure out ways to solve a problem. This is important because the way in which you want to handle something may not be the best method.

Create solutions: Finally, we can get to the fun part (or at least for me). Create up to three solutions for resolving the issue, such as a complete win, a compromise, or a win-lose (if the “win” is what’s best for the organization/department). Now you’ve got options, and if you have to make the decision by yourself, you can weigh those options appropriately.

Execute solution: Now it’s time to implement. Don’t do this all at once or else you’ll cause unnecessary trouble. Communicate with others about what is happening, why it’s happening, and how your solution(s) will help.

*Disclaimer: As you move through this process and talk with others, be sure to document, document, document. That way, there will always be a record of what took place, who said what, and when everything happened. Believe me, you’ll need this one day.

You may find that your own methods of problem-solving change, and that’s a good thing. So, how do you solve problems?

Keep leading and stay safe,

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