As Steven Snyder points out in Leadership and the Art of Struggle, having a growth mindset is essential as we navigate through leadership challenges. It keeps us optimistic as well as wanting to learn more and enhance the way we do things.
Equally important is having a problem-solving mindset. There isn’t a day that goes by in which a problem doesn’t arise. Big or small, we encounter problems each and every day. We have a choice on what to do. We can:
Only the last one is a viable option. If we freeze in our tracks or ignore a problem, it just doesn’t evaporate. Worse, unsolved, we get stuck in the status quo or blame someone else for leaving it unsettled. Both of these wear down our growth mindset and impact our attitude in a very negative way.
Solving problems is what leaders do. It is what people do. We solve problems or, at least, it is what I am suggesting is a necessary life and work skill. Some are better at it than others, but it is a skill anyone can learn and enhance.
Highlighted below are five practices to enhance your problem solving mindset.
Practice 1: Recognize a problem.
The first practice is awareness. Attentiveness may be stronger way to look at it. We need to wake-up to the fact a problem exists!
It is easier to recognize a problem when it is someone else’s. When it is ours, it is more challenging to see at times.
Here are some clues:
- You keep having the same conversation over and over again.
- You talk and no real change happens.
- You listen but all you hear are your own thoughts.
- Frustration is growing in your teams and organization.
- People leave or begin to check-out in effort.
There are market, culture, people, and many other clues that arise. We just need to slap ourselves to attention.
Practice 2: Turn the problem inside out.
We need to know the details of the problem. A definition of it is a starting point and then we need to define it further. Key questions requiring answers include:
- What caused the problem? Dig deep.
- What are the dimensions of the problem? Go wide.
- What happens if the problem remains unsolved? Go inside.
Understand the problem. Write it down to gain clarity. Ask why to determine the cause.
Practice 3: Turn it upside down.
We just need to look at a problem from a different angle to gain a better, more accurate perspective.
We need to talk to others. It may be team members impacted by the problem. It may be customers. It may be mentors. It may be colleagues. It may be all of these groups.
We also may need to read market information. It may include looking at other industries, too, in how they handled similar situations. We need a well-rounded perspective.
We may need to just go for a walk.
Practice 4: Take it inside.
At times, we may just need solitude. We need time to think. It may be meditation. It may be writing about it. It may be just having the time to consider the alternatives.
It is not staying wrapped in our own thoughts or taking on the problem alone. Solitude in mind does not equal solo in effort. Instead, we need the time to soak it in and get our thoughts in order. We need to center ourselves to work more effectively with the people required to solve the problem.
Practice 5: Solve it but don’t leave it.
Once we have defined a solution and moved forward, we need to put the right metrics in place to ensure it is working as intended. We need to be flexible to adjust to what the trends are communicating.
Too often, we solve and leave the problem behind. We need to ensure it stays solved or, at least, we have the right solution in place.
Adopt a Problem-Solving Mindset
Part of a having a growth mindset is having a problem-solving one, too. It is how we grow. It is how we learn. It is how we lead to build better organizations and communities.
Problem-solving requires us to evaluate, involve, decide, and deliver. We must avoid stalemate, sidestepping a problem or letting one fester.
Our responsibility as a leaders, team members, and citizens is to adopt and enhance our problem-solving mindset.
How do you develop a problem-solving mindset?