10 Ways to Successfully Lead Through Problems
The difference between a whiner and a leader is the courage to step into the gap and seek solutions.
Average leaders solve problems.
Successful leaders find problems.
Skillful leaders create problems.
Leaders shine lights on painful gaps.
Problems are gaps between what is and what should be. The bigger the gap the bigger the problem.
All great leaders solve great problems.
Short-sighted leaders sweep problems under the carpet. Successful leaders confront the inclination to ignore uncomfortable topics, situations, and circumstances.
Positive power of problems:
- Problems give meaning to actions.
- Problems explain your value. The bigger the problem you solve the more value you offer.
- More problems mean more solutions.
Organizational mission is explained by the big problem you are solving. An organization that isn’t solving a problem has a problem.
10 ways to approach solution-making:
- Maximize. Don’t say, “It’s not that bad.” Make problems worthy of solutions.
- Listen. Pay attention to frustrations. Don’t appease frustrations; explore them.
- Urgency. Define reality by explaining the negative impact of urgent problems.
- Acceptance. Accept that current programs, systems, or processes aren’t working as well as intended. Don’t point fingers.
- Use we. “We have a problem.” “I” doesn’t invite participation. “You” makes leadership irrelevant.
- Ownership. Take problems personally.
- Fast. Quick solutions create momentum. Solve a few easy problems, quickly. Don’t make it hard if it isn’t.
- Postpone. We can’t solve this right now. Throw it in the problem bucket.
- Difficulty and optimism. It may require hard work, adaptation, and experimentation, but we’ll find a way. Confronting problems without optimism is a death sentence.
- Test as you go.
Bonus: Average leaders offer their solutions. Successful leaders develop solutions with others.
Dean Schroeder on creating problems (0:52):
*This post is inspired by my conversations with Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder, authors of, “The Idea-Driven Organization.”
What are the components of great problems?
Well think my email box is compromised!!!
That’s a big problem!!
Way I see it there are just great opportunities to display my greatness.
Have a way to solve the poverty thingy!!!
I know how that sounds but what if I really do?
There is an unlimited supply of traffic on the Internet!!!
There is an unlimited supply of products.
The structure of how to hook those together is the error.
Change that everything changes.
And the change is not geographic specific, it is Internet connection specific.
So Poverty a great big ole problem!!! Just needs a simple little solution.
Know I cannot be emailed right now but anyone in LF land interested in hearing me out!! Hear me out poke a hole in what I am saying!!
Bet you can’t!!!
Then share and help!!
Now wouldn’t it just be something if poverty globally was solved starting with a conversation on LeadershipFreak??
Promise my idea is bullet proof!! Hope yahoo gets my mail account fixed!!
Anyways I KNOW how crazy it sounds but what if?
Somebody just let me share and if this can’t poke a hole in my plan tell others!
Components of great problems are great solutions in waiting!
Thanks Scott. Great ideas sound crazy at first. Time is the judge.
#1 “Maximize” the problem should be practiced with caution. It’s been my observation that presenting any problem as “the sky is falling” is far from productive. Problems are productive only when presented in a realistic and rational fashion. You can lend urgency without making a mountain out of a mole-hill.
Thanks M. “The sky is falling” when it isn’t makes you look dumb. If people believe you, they panic. I’m glad you stopped in today.
One way to avoid making mountains our of mole hills is having private conversations designed to craft an accurate problem statement that is not only accurate but believable.
Nice add M. “Thank you”!
Good morning Dan
It’s quite easy to appear to be a great leader when there are ‘no’ problems. Problem is, in today’s business culture of ever increasing rapid change, their are always new problems to tackle. When you want to identify the true leaders in your organization, look around you. Who do people look to for answers and direction, who do people trust enough to follow their vision, who do people count on to turn something bad into good. “They look to problem solvers”. Not whiners or excuse makers. They look to those who can inspire others to commit. They look to others who consistently find ways to expedite problems that typically slow others down. It takes a network of people working together who know they can count on one-another to be there even when it’s inconvenient. Problems are a great identifier of the true measure of a leader. Problems that are ignored are problems that grow. People that solve problems are people that grow. This reminds me of a recently new commercial for the United States Marine Corps. “There’s an explosion, smoke and dust fill the air, people are running away, while Marines are running into the eye of the storm.” THATS WHAT A LEADER DOES, THATS WHAT A LEADER IS… Semper-FI
It is important to 1) Focus on the organization’s mission 2) Identify not only problems, but root causes 3) Help people not to fear, but rather participate in encouraging hearts and face issues with them 4) Prioritize issues to be addressed in view of scarce resources 5) Accept things that cannot be changed, and help others accept them 6) Avoid complacency at all costs 7) Increase tempo as much as possible, since time is the most inelastic of resources. Increasing tempo will automatically help to increase focus, and will point out problems to be addressed 8) Be honest – don’t minimize or exaggerate issues 9) Look in the mirror and ask others to give feedback – sometimes the problem is us 10) Don’t attribute problems to necessarily mean somebody is at fault, and if somebody is at fault, don’t avoid attributing accountability to them.
Interesting problem 😉 we tackle today! My two cents:
Weak leaders waste time solving non-essential problems.
11. find a good-enough solution – it’s usually…well…good enough. Don’t aim for the overkill.
You’re absolutely right. The best decisions are not always the ones with the optimal outcomes, but the ones made sufficiently well with sufficient speed using the best knowledge available at the time.
Dan, your opening line — “The difference between a whiner and a leader is the courage to step into the gap and seek solutions” — is a great opening line, and so on-target. I think whiners serve a worthwhile purpose: They can help point out problems that need attention. Fear of failure or undue criticism keeps them from acting on that knowledge, though. And that’s where leadership skills fill an essential need.
I agree that there is little growth when things go smoothly, and that problems and bumps in the road can be a path to improving one’s product or service. Good leaders are well-versed in how to maximize that opportunity. However, I’d have to disagree with “creating problems” being the hallmark of a skillful leader. The current culture of “failure is good” is swinging too far in one direction – YES it can be good, but life is too short to go around creating problems!
Another positive of problems is when they are external to the organization. Problems among the industry means entrance into the market is difficult. Find the solution and find the win.
Time to sprinkle in some alternative controversy. Anybody here ever heard of the Law of Attraction? Well, the problem with problems (sic) is that if you keep digging deeper into a problem, you’ll get more of that problem. It’ll be tough to shake that problem if you keep focusing on it. On the other hand, if you dig deeper into the solution, well, now we’re talking.
It’s all about perception. See the problems, attract more of the same. See the solutions, and the results are clear. It doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to a problem. It means identifying it, then identifying why you want something different, then focusing on the latter. Changing your perception changes everything, because it changes what you are focusing on, and what you are focusing on will attract more of the same. Deep down, you know this.
The presence of a present problem is a present (gift), showing us that gap someone referred to earlier, between what we want and what we currently have. But if we only focus on what is (the problem), the desire for the new experience (the solution) will fall into the background. Momentum will be lost. Can’t you see that it’s much less about the actions we take, and much more about the environment we create?
Doesn’t really matter to me, but do you agree or disagree?
So often we view problems as being negative, but as you point out – they are opportunities to improve and grow. Thanks Dan. 🙂