In most organizations, problems become pretty easy to spot and call out. I’ve believed for a long time that one of the key qualities of people who rise through the ranks quickly is their ability to take the next step:
Bring forth solutions to the problems. Teddy Roosevelt used to say, “Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.”
We all encounter problems. Everyday. But the people who achieve at the highest levels are the ones who are best at solving problems.
The bigger, the better.
Here are four important watch outs to ensure you are solving problems and not just calling them out, in the workplace and at home:
1. Begin with the end in mind
Stephen Covey used to say, “Begin with the end in mind.”
A great place to start is by looking at what the best possible experience needs to be for the end user, which is usually the consumer or business who will be buying the product. From that starting point, you can work backward toward the solution.
If the situation is not in business, the process shouldn’t change. Think to yourself, “What does the ideal outcome to this situation need to look like?” This level of thinking forces you to think more creatively and will increase your chances of creating a solution.
2. Utilize people of different backgrounds
Often times, it can be extremely difficult to take a holistic look at situations, especially if you’re immersed in one particular function of the business. When you’re buried in the day-to-day of your own responsibility, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and be closed off to other possibilities and ideas.
Step back, detach, and attempt to look at the situation from 30,000 feet, not just from the ground level. Ask some teammates for their opinion on the topic. Also, ask people in other departments if they have any ideas.
In my own life, my wife gives me the best advice. She is incredibly resourceful, intuitive, and solution-oriented. I hate to admit, but there have also been times in business where she’s told me I was going down the wrong path on a decision, and she’s almost always been right.
If you have someone outside of your current business to bounce ideas off, I highly recommend you entertain their thoughts and opinions when possible.
3. Use all resources available
In today’s world, there are very few problems to solve where you can’t find an answer somewhere. With all the resources and tools available today, I firmly believe the only answer you can’t find is the one you don’t look hard enough for.
Books, podcasts, and blogs are great places to find useful wisdom and guidance. Books are my favorite resource. If someone has taken the effort to research, write, and publish a book on a topic, even if the entire work isn’t amazing, there are usually at least one or two nuggets I can learn and act on.
One word of caution: because there are is so much content out in the world today, and there are so many “experts” in practically every field, you must be careful who you take advice from. Before absorbing someone’s advice or opinion, take a few minutes and research the person who created it. Some good qualifiers are the person’s background, certifications and/or qualifications, who they’re connected to, and who they’re endorsed by.
4. Set it aside and come back later
Frustration kills creative thinking, and it is possible to be so frustrated that there’s little chance you can think of a solution in a particular moment. This is completely normal, and it’s okay.
In times when a problem is really frustrating, and you’re not making any progress, it’s okay to put it down and come back later with a clearer head. Take a day or two, walk away from it, and revisit it later.
As long as you make the commitment to come back to problem at a later time, stepping away can be a good thing.
Problems are not only frustrating, but they are what leaders in all walks of life are trying to solve. In most cases, the reason people have been put in top positions is because of their ability to lead teams to solving problems.
And most are always looking for more people to help them. Bring more solutions, and you’ll watch your career take off.
What are your best tips for being a part of the solution?
Bret Barrie was a Hall-of-Fame and President’s Club-winning sales rep and has been a top-producing sales leader in multiple industries. He is also the author of The Selling Edge: How to Reach the Top in any Sales Industry. A baseball enthusiast and fitness junkie, he is happily married with three children and lives in the greater Sacramento area. For more information, visit bretbarrie.com.