How to Find Solutions without Getting Sucked into Problems

Suppose a leader’s team chronically under-performs. How might you help?


The beginning of transformation:

Pain and frustration are opportunities for transformation.

Success that breeds contentment destroys the future. Painful failure inspires openness to change.

But there’s a trap.

The trap that prevents transformation:

Helpers don’t help when they get sucked into problem analysis.

There’s limited usefulness to questions like:

  1. What’s wrong?
  2. What’s not working?
  3. What’s the problem?

People and teams move in the direction of their conversations. Negative conversations have gravitational pull. 

A problem is just the beginning.

There’s an alternative to getting dragged into the darkness.

Choose bright:

Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want.

An example of a ‘want’ question: “If the team was functioning as you hoped, what behaviors would you see?”

Beware the wrong answer. Leaders are tempted to respond with results-based answers, rather than behavior-based answers.

The wrong answer is, “The team would meet their goals on time.” The right answer addresses topics like…

  1. New ways to interact with each other in team meetings.
  2. Team responses to success and failure.
  3. Individual behaviors that strengthen team dynamics.
  4. Enhancing individual performance.
  5. Clarity about goals, responsibilities, values, and methods.

The power of confusion:

Confusion is the point of growth, if you embrace it.

When exploring new options, listen for, “I don’t know.” Only an irresponsible leader would know the right thing to do, but NOT do it.

Cheer when a struggling leader says, “I don’t know.” 

Responding to, “I don’t know.”:

  1. Honor openness. “Thanks for saying that.”
  2. Turn them into an adviser. “What advice would you give me, if our roles were reversed?”
  3. “What would your favorite boss from the past suggest?”
  4. “Well, if you DID know, what would you do?”
  5. “Who might know?” Send them on a wisdom-seeking mission.

What strategies help under-performers turn around?

What traps hinder the growth and development of individuals and teams?