Receiving the 12 Gifts of Problems

Successful leaders run toward problems, not away. If you want to lead, solve a problem, the bigger the better.

Problems come bearing gifts, if you can receive them.

the gift of problems

12 Gifts:

Handled well, problems:

  1. Strengthen connections.
  2. Intensify focus.
  3. Enhance vulnerability.
  4. Fuel urgency.
  5. Clarify responsibility.
  6. Increase opportunity.
  7. Instigate growth.
  8. Disrupt status quo.
  9. Extend skills.
  10. Develop character.
  11. Amplify self-reflection.
  12. Grow capacity.

Problem-solving is creating the future. Handled poorly, problems distract, defeat, and, eventually destroy.

Tomorrow is revealed in the way you solve problems today.


The first problem many leaders face is slowing down enough to define the real problem. Take a walk. Sleep on it. (See input from Facebook fans.)

Don’t solve it before defining it.

Stay curious longer than necessary.

7 layers that obscure real problems:

Real solutions are hidden under seven layers.

  1. Assumptions about the problem.
  2. Feelings about people close to the problem.
  3. Expanding drama.
  4. Expectations of higher ups, colleagues, and customers.
  5. Wishing for more resources.
  6. Solving peripheral issues.
  7. Incomplete solutions that feel complete.


The danger of problems is distraction.

  1. What are we doing to make the world better?
  2. What do we hope to do in the future?
  3. Why is our mission important?

Solve problems with mission, vision, and values in mind.

7 Questions:

  1. Is it really worth it? Don’t solve it.
  2. Is there a better way to achieve objectives? Let go the old.
  3. Who needs to be involved? People questions are priority questions.
  4. How public is the problem?
  5. Who owns the solution?
  6. Who monitors and reports progress?
  7. How will success be declared and celebrated?


Talking about problems without taking action always leads to discouragement.

When inaction prevails, helplessness sets in.

Do something, any reasonable action will do.

“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people; to focus your energies on answers – not excuses.” William Arthur Ward

What problem-solving strategies do you find useful?