Effective Problem-Solving – Duck or Dive


So are you a ducker or diver?

Effective Problem Solving


“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

Colin Powell


Do you tackle problems head-on with your team or do you avoid confronting issues at all costs?

The number of times I have heard team members complaining that managers never listen to their issues and do something or managers don’t deal with team members who aren’t pulling their weight. It’s frustrating for the people involved and very disheartening.  It doesn’t help create engagement with employees if you just let the problems carry on.   Alternatively, I’ve seen managers rushing into situations, like a bull in a China shop.  In my early days of management I often did this and the times it backfired.  I soon learnt what worked and what didn’t when dealing with issues. Nothing like getting egg on your face!

As a manager, especially as a new one, it can seem very daunting tackling any issues but by doing so you help your team to be successful. By taking action, even if you can’t tell them what you are doing will build trust and create the sense that you genuinely care.  It also creates employee satisfaction with you as the Employer.

To help you feel confident in dealing with issues consider these tips. For those who rush in, they will make sure you have considered other avenues before doing anything.

1. Identify what the root cause of the problem is through asking probing questions. Remember Rudyard Kipling’s six honest serving men – What, Why, When, How, Where and Who, and use these for the basis of your questions.

2. What evidence do you need to help you feel more confident in discussions? Performance issues need specifics such as productivity information or examples of where behaviour has not been to the standard expected. For discussions with teams, research is useful to give you the background and potential options for ideas. I can recall being told things by team members and going charging in to discover I hadn’t been given the whole facts.  You only do that a couple of times before becoming wiser.

3. Plan the meeting format whether it’s with a team member or the team. For individuals, the “Grow” model is a useful tool for planning the meeting. With teams draft an agenda – see my blog on running meetings for more tips.

4. If it is a team problem, look at how you can involve them in identifying solutions. Through involvement, it creates buy-in, generates enthusiasm as well as creative ideas and developing individuals. Want to understand different ways of problem-solving then get my help card here

5. Consider your approach in the meetings. Listen, and then listen some more to your team members and observe body language. What are they not telling you? Try asking in different ways to check your understanding.

  1. 6. Finally, make sure you come up with actions and implement them. There is nothing more destroying for teams as when the time is spent discussing issues, ideas generated and then that’s it, nothing happens. If that happens too many times then the team loses trust in you, won’t generate any ideas and becomes disinterested. If an individual then they will feel uncared for if you don’t support them in the actions needed and they won’t grow as individuals.

Do let me know whether you consider yourself a ducker or diver, what you have done to combat it and any tips you have picked up along the way.

If you would like a problem-solving help card sign up here.

Take care



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