Monday, February 5, 2018

The Problem with Problems

During interesting times and when working through a trough of chaos, leaders spend a vast amount of time and energy dealing with problems. Big problems and little problems, tactical problems and strategic problems, technical problems and adaptive problems, complex problems and complicated problems.  Every day more problems show up. They just keep coming and coming.

While many leaders focus on solving problems and fixing problems, great leaders in the trough of chaos do something else which changes the whole situation. They figure out how to sell the problem.

The problem with problems is that leaders can end up being the hub of all solutions. Everyone has a problem. And everyone brings the problem to the leader. The leader solves the problem. The people learn that this works. Bring a problem to the leader and the leader will solve it. 

So, what does everyone do? They bring all the problems to the leader and wait for him or her to solve them.  What at first glance is a solution now becomes a problem. No one solves their own problems. They just bring them to the leader and wait.

Here is where selling the problem is the solution. Rather than the leader becoming the hub for all problem solving, the leader needs to be a bridge builder, connecting competent groups of people who can figure out how to solve the problems themselves.

Selling the problems means that one knows how to place the problem within the larger context of what is happening within the company and within the environment that surrounds the company. It means that a person in a leadership position understands and can explain the strategic direction of the company as well as the core values of the company. Connecting the strategic direction of the company to the problem provides a reason why we need to address the issues that are causing the problem. Explaining how the core values come into play provides a set of guidelines about how to solve the problem. It is the combination, strategy and core values, that will make a difference.

Everyone is busy when they are in the trough of chaos. Most are just trying to cope with all of the work that needs to get done. When an exceptional leader sells the problems rather than simply fixing it themselves, they build capacity, clarity and confidence in the organization which is very helpful as people move through the trough of chaos and on to a new level of personal and organizational performance.

This week, sit down and define three of your top problems. Then, figure out how they influence or are connected to the current strategic plan. Next, write out how you would sell these problems so that people will come together to fix them rather than simply hand them off to you. In the short run, this will take more time than solving it yourself. But in the long run, you will be making a profound difference for yourself and the company.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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