“One reason that it’s helpful to talk about your problems with someone else is the unique perspective they bring to bear on it. Did you know that you can teach yourself to do this without the help of someone else? You can. It’s one of the most useful skills I teach.”
~ Chandell Labbozzetta
You Need to Discover New Ways of Thinking and Defining Problems
You may have heard the story about the group of people who were blindfolded, then taken over to an elephant and asked what they thought it was. As they crowded around the elephant, each person described it based on the particular part they could feel. Even though they were all accurately describing the element they were close to, they did not have a clear picture of the whole animal.
Problems in any area of life are like that – including business problems. We see the problem from our own perspective, and we feel it’s effects, but we can’t see all round it. In addition, we’re also often caught up in an emotional response to the existence of the problem in itself.
We’re often just like the people with blindfolds on who were confronted by the elephant when it comes to problem-solving. We see one part from one perspective. Often, that perspective is the reason the problem exists in the first place.
For example, Jim struggled to get his employees to arrive at work on time. He called me and invited me to help him solve this problem. As he described the problem, people were always arriving late, shifting deadlines, making excuses, and generally not acting responsibly.
We arranged to meet at a café at 8am to discuss the situation before heading into the office. At 8:10am he called to tell me he was running late and would be there in 5 minutes. At 8:45am he received a message on his phone from Sam, his accountant: “See you in fifteen minutes.” A quick check on his calendar revealed that he was double booked.
I looked at him as I stood up to leave. “I’ve just solved your problem, Jim. Your staff members may have a problem. You most certainly do, and I’m willing to bet they’re just following your example. Until you sort out your disorganisation, I don’t think you can ask much of your staff.”
Jim did not have a clue that he had a problem until I pointed it out to him. Even worse, as long as he was misdiagnosing the problem, he didn’t have a hope of solving it. When we met the following week, he looked at everything from a completely different perspective.
Calling a consultant or coach doesn’t have to be your first step in finding a solution. You can start to identify the problem yourself using the steps that follow.
People naturally approach problems at varying levels of abstraction. You may be a naturally abstract thinker or a naturally detailed thinker. There’s no right or wrong about it, but you want to be aware of your own tendency because it will affect the way you:
- Perceive Problems
- Define Problems; and
- Solve Problems.
Many people focus on a specific problem (like Jim’s frustration with unreliable employees). As long as Jim was focused on the behaviour of his employees, he missed a fundamental part of the problem which was his own elastic approach to time and appointment commitments.
By asking the questions:
- For what purpose? And
- What is this an example of?
you can discover more about what is really going on and where the cause of the problem lies. If you are naturally an abstract thinker, then there is a high probability that you will only discover what you already know, so you need to…
Some people instinctively frame problems in universal abstractions (like ‘world peace’, and ‘climate change’, ‘racism’, ‘gender stereotypes, etc). When you do this it’s very had to find solutions at a day-by-day level.
The other side of Jim’s problem was that he was looking at a soup pot of all his employees, every day, in every way. As we dug into his problem later on, it was clear that there was a subset of his employees who meticulously fulfilled their obligations, and a growing number of employees who did not. In order to solve the problem, we needed to delve into the details and ask questions like:
- What or whom specifically are we talking about? And
- What are specific examples of this?
These answers will help you identify the extent of the problem more accurately. If you already think in a detailed fashion then you may become overwhelmed and need to chunk higher to uncover the insights you need, or even…
You’ve probably heard of lateral thinking and its modern founding father, Edward do Bono. Looking at problems from the side, or chunking sideways, is one of the most challenging approaches for most people.
As we looked at Jim’s problem with organising his own time and honouring his commitments, he realised that it showed up differently in many areas of his life as well. It wasn’t just a question of switching calendar apps or time management tools or activating louder and more persistent alarms. Nor was it a question of changing just one kind of unreliable behaviour. It was showing up in multiple areas of his life.
Jim had an unusually powerful desire to please people, so his first response was always “yes.” In addition, he was incredibly optimistic about how quickly he could accomplish tasks and how much he could fit into his life.
It wasn’t until we asked the questions:
- What are other examples of this? And
- Where else does this show up?
that we realised how widespread the problem was and what it would take to solve the problem.
The really exciting part is that once Jim grasped this approach, he was able to use it to solve several other problems that had been bothering him for years. In fact, a few months later, he was able to help his daughter apply the same approach to her schoolwork and transition from a struggling C-student, to a stellar A+ student at the top of her class.
Confident Conversion: 90 days to More Cash, More Clients, More Impact
This cornerstone program isn’t your standard business growth course that focuses purely on tactical and strategic elements. In addition to those essential elements, our goal is to provide you with the mindset and thinking tools that give you new ways of analysing and solving problems.
You can discover more about it at https://bit.ly/CC-90days