Don’t “Address” Problems; Solve Them!

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As an advisor, I frequently find teams who address and analyze problems yet are reluctant to hold one another accountable for solving problems. These teams consist of bright people, and in most cases, they enjoy addressing organizational issues. After all, that’s why they work in leadership positions. However, when it comes to investing the necessary time to tear apart an issue, consider multiple points of view, and garner the collective wisdom of the entire leadership team to implement a solution, they frequently fall short.

Here are some practical suggestions to help you and your team solve the actual problem rather than just address it:

1. Deliberately create a “container” (physically and mentally) in which you focus solely on the problem at hand. Daily huddles and weekly meetings are great times to identify problems, but you must reserve adequate time to drill down on one issue if you ever hope to solve it.

2. Before entering the session, mentally prepare yourself for constructive conflict. Titles, personal feelings, and biases must be checked at the door. Your purpose is to use the collective intelligence of the executive team to solve that one issue, and any conflict should be related to that issue, not personal qualities or abilities. If one team member had all the answers, you would not need to meet. This is not a “me” problem; it’s a “we” problem.

3. Stick to the subject. Straying off on various tangents will only raise additional issues that distract from the matter at hand. Once a problem is identified and defined, set aside a minimum of 20 minutes to focus on it before moving on. If you cannot commit 20 minutes to it, then you should probably table it for a later meeting.

4. At the conclusion of the problem solving meeting, the CEO must ask, “Have we done our best work?” and, “Can you all support this solution?” If anyone gives a “no” to either question, you need to further discuss it now or schedule another “container” when you can.  You are not seeking consensus; you are seeking honest debate followed by agreement to support the final decision, regardless of who initially agreed or disagreed with the idea.

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