Problem or Solution? Do you need to be a problem solving hero, or can you step back and operationalize so the problem can’t happen again?
If you prefer to listen to this blog post, instead of reading, click here for an audio version:
When you encounter a pretty serious obstacle or challenge, do you sometimes get so involved in its resolution that you run the risk of getting stuck in the problem and allowing that to get in the way of possible solutions? With other words, are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution?
Problem or Solution?
The lion share of most of our jobs in today’s fast pace of business is to target and chase down results that provide for our success, right? Our own success and that of our organisation or business. For our own growth and that of our organisation or business.
A significant part of that success is to resolve problems that can get in the way of that success isn’t it? We have to learn (quickly) to anticipate, mitigate and avoid problems and obstacles in the first place and then to resolve them when they occur. Whilst we enjoy and “bank” the experience from the successes, most of our learning comes from having to resolve problems, doesn’t it?
Yet how much time can the avoidance and resolution of such problems or challenges consume? I have learned both from my work as a leader in my corporate roles as well as from all the executives, business owners and professionals I have coached that we can so easily get “sucked in” to the problem solving space. I have learned that our attitude towards this topic can also play a large part in whether we are focused on the solution or in fact lose sight of that as we immerse ourselves in the problem.
Hero’s: problem or solution?
Time and again I have witnessed situations where people in an organization dwell on and revel in problem solving, particularly when they are bored or insufficiently stretched in their role. “Yesss – here’s a major problem that needs to be fixed – urgently!” We all have a need for significance – some much more than others, right? These people relish the drama. They are willing to work day and night to “fix it”. They love to be hero’s because of the “rush” they get from the excitement of the chase and how important they may seem to “keeping the operation running”. And then there is the recognition for having “saved the day” afterwards. Of course, when this becomes the norm, people can get pretty tired and even burned out, can’t they?
I can often be accused of “bursting that bubble” when being able to see through that, as “outsiders” coaches and consultants can, to see that it is the process that is causing the failure in the first place that is broken, allowing it to happen again and again and relying on the “hero’s” to keep fixing it. In good organization and good project management robust, mature processes avoid the ongoing need for hero’s. So that if such a dramatic “rescue” can occur once only and lead to the establishment of a sound process that prevents re-occurrence of the problem, it is a win – win – win situation.
That was one typical risk of getting stuck in the problem, rather than being focused on the solution. There is another risk of that that can creep into our attitude.
Sometimes we can feel quite overwhelmed by the severity or extent of a problem we face, right? That can be extremely stressful, particularly when we feel insufficiently equipped or supported for its resolution. This is where can run the risk of “not seeing the wood for the trees” and allowing the problem to consume us. We can’t see beyond the problem. We are stuck in it. Can you recall such an occurrence in your career?
In such situations we can actually become part of the problem itself, can’t we? Isn’t this where we can allow the wrong attitude to prevail and resort to looking for excuses or finding and allocating blame? Isn’t this where sometimes procrastination sets in, as we “wheel spin” in the problem?
I often use the metaphor of the “when a dog is in the hunt, it has no time to search for fleas”. I use it from two perspectives:
- When it is chasing the rabbit the dog has a purpose and there is no way it can be distracted (by fleas or anything else) until it has fulfilled that purpose and caught the rabbit
- When it isn’t chasing rabbits, it has lots of time to search for fleas. In fact isn’t it amazing what “fleas” us humans with our “mind chatter” can create when we have no purpose or have too much time to allow our left brain mind chatter to run rampant?
NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) teaches us that one aspect of success is to “start with the outcome in mind”. That is to develop and chase down a purpose. Some call it goal or dream or target or budget – whatever works for you. The better you can visualize it, the more likely your right brain will feed you options to manifest its outcome.
And so it could be true for our problem also. When stuck in a problem, what if you were to “step back” and Using “the Gap” to reframe yourself to remind yourself of what it is that you are trying to achieve here?
What was the outcome you had in mind?
To take stock of what you already know.
To ask yourself: “what is the worst that can happen here?”
But to also ask yourself: “what is the best that can happen here?” so that between those two outside positions there are bound to be some likely scenarios that might work.
You might also ask yourself: “who do you know that might have had and resolved such an issue, and how might they have gone about it?”
And one of my favorites: “what if this weren’t a problem right now – how might I be able to look at it then?”.
So, time to reflect on which camp we find ourselves in most: are you more often “part of the solution” or more often “part of the problem”?
If you are in the former, I applaud you and sincerely hope you are coaching those around you that aren’t (yet), into how to do that.
If you are in the latter, I applaud you for recognizing and “owning up to that”. Recognition puts you on your way to addressing it. This is a coaching concept I use a lot, so you aren’t alone, if this is where you are.
And if this is something somewhat bigger as an issue for you, why not reach out for a coach to help you through it? Go on, Contact Me and Let’s Talk Coaching