Problems come in many varied flavors in the world of business. Solving a problem means figuring out the best way to tackle it. Unfortunately, the biggest problem with entrepreneurs stuck in a singular mindset is that this mentality doesn’t allow for experimentation.
In many cases, the first step you take toward solving a problem helps to make the solution apparent. In such a case, having access to multiple first steps to approach a problem diversifies your problem-solving depth. Below, 14 entrepreneurs from Forbes Coaches Council share the first step they take in solving problems within their companies, and how those initial stages help them find a viable solution.
1. Understand The Root Cause First
Before you can solve any issue, you have to have a full understanding of what the root of the issue is. It truly saves time to fully evaluate what’s happening. Once you have an understanding, it’s a good idea to involve a trusted party to get a second opinion of the situation and share the actionable and strategic steps you plan to take. This helps you prevent impulsive decision-making. – Shermikia Lemon, Mediation Solutions Group, LLC
2. Do Your Due Diligence In The Discovery Stage
Clearly define the problem and desired outcome. Too often we jump to solving the fruits of the problem, not addressing the roots. During this discovery stage, you are asking a lot of good questions, including everyone involved, discerning facts from opinions, evaluating the expectations, clearly defining the problem and the desired outcome. Lack of clarity creates temporary and superficial results! – Lillit Cholakian, NewGen Global Leaders
3. Know What Success Looks Like
Start solving a problem with a clear view of what success would look like when the problem is solved. In addition, think about how you will measure and track the success of your solution. If the problem is complex, there may be a number of interim milestones on the journey to a solution. Having a clear vision for each step and measuring progress will help you get to the longer-term solution. – Charles Dormer, APEX STP, LLC
4. Gather Data And Pull In The Right People
When trying to solve a problem, the best place to start is to collect data. Data can include tracking people’s opinions and comments, reevaluating employee surveys, going back and analyzing the history of process changes or any number of things. Get the full picture before jumping in to solve a problem. Also, pull the people in the room who know what is happening and have diverse experiences. – Susan Madsen, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business
5. Find The Right Person To Solve The Problem
Leaders are called to lead and sometimes the best way to lead is to let others solve the problems that they should solve. The first question a leader should ask when solving a problem is, “who is the best person to solve this problem?” Often, that person is not the leader. The person closest to the problem is often the best person to solve the problem. – Ken Gosnell, CEO Experience
6. Look At The Stakeholders
When trying to solve a problem it’s helpful to start with an understanding of what the problem is about and what a desired outcome/solution could be if the problem wasn’t a problem but something one wanted to achieve or change. Then it is important to also look at the stakeholders. Who is part of the problem and what are their roles and how can they become part of the solution? – Ute Franzen-Waschke, Business English & Culture
7. Get Clear On What You Can Influence
Identify the part of the problem you can control or is your responsibility. Then, clarify what you should seek to influence. Lastly, recognize what you need to simply let go of – at least for now – and not give any more energy. Take this approach to reduce overwhelm, gain clarity and uncover the most important focus. – Chuck Ainsworth, Center for Creative Leadership
8. Make Sure You Have The Whole Story
When solving employee-related issues, managers have a tendency to believe the first person who raises the concern. It makes sense – an employee comes to you with a problem and you want to solve it. But before identifying solutions, make sure you’ve gathered all of the information by speaking with everyone involved. Each person will have their own perspective and it’s your job to uncover the truth. – Cheryl Czach, Cheryl Czach Coaching and Consulting, LLC
9. Embrace Design Thinking
Before a problem can be solved, it must be understood. What is the problem? For example, is it a functional or emotional problem? Who or what is it a problem for? Thinking directly in solutions is inefficient. With design thinking, solutions are found quickly and effectively. A diverse team works with different knowledge and experience backgrounds to solve the problem. – Michael Thiemann, Strategy-Lab™
10. Reflect And Consider
Create some space to reflect using some coaching questions. What is the core issue and what would an ideal solution look like? What information do I have and might need to resolve this issue? Who might I involve to assist? Spending some time to reflect on the issue, the desired outcome and your resources centers you, defines the issue and moves you toward finding an appropriate solution. – Palena Neale, Ph.D, unabridged
11. Replace ‘Problem’ With ‘Opportunity’
When we focus on something that happens as a “problem,” someone has to be the victim in the drama triangle. Before you do anything, change your focus from “problem” to “opportunity.” When you do this, you make yourself a creator versus a victim and see what’s happening as something good versus something bad. This is how we break out of the drama triangle. – John Knotts, Crosscutter Enterprises
12. Consider The Consequences
Make sure you have identified the problem correctly and take the time to run through various second and third-order consequences of the solution. When working with clients, I remind them that taking the extra time can identify the unintended consequences of a particular resolution, which is especially important when dealing with a complex problem. This also keeps them from becoming narrow-sighted. – Lisa Marie Platske, Upside Thinking, Inc.
13. Exercise Healthy Skepticism
While being in tune with our “gut” is essential as an organizational leader, we also need to exercise a healthy skepticism of our own thinking. The truth is, we all have implicit biases, and far too often, these biases negatively impact our decision-making in a variety of ways. We need to have intellectual humility, seek out relevant data, rely on experts and be deliberate in our problem-solving. – Jonathan H. Westover, Ph.D, Utah Valley University & Human Capital Innovations, LLC
14. Don’t React Emotionally, But Respond Logically
I know I respond well emotionally to most problems, in the moment. That strength can become a weakness when applied to all situations. Trusting my gut is one thing, but many problems have a logical approach not easily seen at first. Solutions don’t appear right away. Inside an emotionally charged situation? It can backfire with quick-strike reactions that may feel right but alienate others. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
By Forbes Coaches Council