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Solving The Problems Of Your World. Part 2

Picking up from my previous post, I mentioned the need to identify a plan of action to break the cycle of being the “go-to” person to solve other people’s problems.  So, let’s tease out the problem solving process and provide suggestions as to how to approach the biggie, building confidence on both sides.

First, let’s take a quick look at the steps to problem solving that we often rapidly scoot through without thinking:

  1. Identify that there is a problem and why it is a problem
  2. Identity possible solutions to the problem, no matter how wacky
  3. Discount the non-runners
  4. Evaluate each of the remaining possible runners, including pros and cons
  5. Decide on which is the best solution

The more experienced we are in the topic, the faster we go through these steps, often running two or three steps into one without even realising it.  When looking to develop someone else’s problem solving skills, the first step is to determine where they are on the problem-solving ladder.  Do they have enough knowledge and/or information to even spot a problem or to suggest any decent possible solutions?  Can they properly evaluate those potential solutions or are they able to eliminate them?  Do they eliminate the wrong solutions and come to faulty decisions?  Are they confident in their evaluations and decisions?  Or, when they do make a decision, is it questioned and/or rejected?

Some steps are easier to fix than others. Lack of knowledge and information can easily be sorted by training, be it a course, a book or on-the-job.  Other steps, such as building confidence, are more complex.  Assuming knowledge & info is no longer an issue, an approach I have used, and seen others use, very successfully is as follows:

Step 1

Tell the person that, going forward, when they bring a problem to you, they are to explain to you what the problem is & why it’s a problem.  Over the next few times they bring an issue to you, you can decide if they are properly able to identify problems.  If they can’t, tease it out with them so that the have a greater understanding of how you think and why.

Step 2

Once you’re comfortable that they can correctly identify valid problems, ask that next time, they come to you with the problem and with 2-3 possible solutions.  In the future, you can assess their ability to identify solutions.  Again, if they keep missing obvious points, ask them questions to draw those out and explain why they are important.  Repeating this process is constantly building their understanding of what is and isn’t important to you, while building their confidence in how they should approach problem solving.

Step 3

Once you’re comfortable that they can correctly identify valid solutions, next time ask them to continue identifying 2-3 solutions and also to outline their recommended solution and why?  This starts building up your confidence in their problem solving abilities while allowing the opportunity to correct their analysis or logic, if necessary.

Step 4

Once you’re comfortable that they have the knowledge, ability, skills and confidence to identify the correct problem and select the best solution, set them, and yourself, free.

While this might seem like a lot of time and effort, I’ve seen people move from Step 1 to Step 4 in a few weeks, freeing everyone up while still having the right decisions made.  Have you been in this “go-to person” cycle?  If so, how have you lifted yourself out of it?

I work with Business Owners, Executives and Managers to help them overcome blockages so that they achieve their goals. I excel at getting people to think, getting people to talk and getting people to agree to giving things a go. In summary, I bring Clarity to the issues, provide on-going Support and guide them to achieve Results. I am an experienced Executive Coach and Leadership Development Trainer. I am qualified in 360 Emotional Intelligence and am constantly seeking new ways to assist my clients.

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  • Irial, this is a great process for any people managers to follow out there. What I like is how this process almost programmes confidence around problem solving and ends up empowering both the manager and the person. This is a great example of how to invest in people, thanks for sharing, Nialln

  • Iofarrell

    Thanks for your comment, Niall.u00a0 As you say, it really does empower both the individual and the manager, making everyone’s life easier 🙂

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