The Problem Is Not the Problem.

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I was recently having a coffee with a mate and after a little while we got talking about our respective roles. He’s a leader in a large organisation and heads up an executive team – a team of highly intelligent, capable and creative individuals. He began sharing that he was having problems with his team – they were being increasingly difficult to manage and was finding it hard to work with them. He thought the problem was with his team. However, after bringing in outside counsel and a lengthy process, he actually discovered the problem lay with him. His lack of confidence had made him over bearing and he didn’t allow his team to soar – he held them back. Pretty hard thing to admit to me, but now he knew the problem was not the problem he thought it was, he could move forward and make the necessary (and hard) changes to his leadership.

Highly effective leaders tackle and solve problems, including the difficult ones and they are constantly aware that sometimes, the problem is not the problem they think it is.

Problem solving is a mental process, which includes problem identifying and problem shaking to find a solution. An incredibly powerful process I utilise to quickly and clearly identify the real problems that inevitably arise and then to sort them out, is the One On One process. I’ve used this process countless times over many years and it’s been a key strategy in growing my businesses and those of my clients.


Do you know what the real problems are in your team or business?

Is there enough clarity? 


Effective leaders find solutions to problems.

Every human being has problems – problems are a part of life. If problems were easy to overcome, no one would have problems! Problems don’t just disappear. They must be tackled head on.


What are the problems you must address right now as the leader? 


Problems that we don’t deal with will ultimately wear us down in the end.

Henry Ford, who’s famous for inventing the first car and founder of the Ford Motor Company once said,


“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them”.  


So true. Leaders need to tackle problems head on, lead by example and drive a culture of problem solving, not problem avoiding.


Remember, your problem is usually not your problem – you need to have a process that really digs deeply to find the real reason the current problem exists.


I’ve done over 16,000 One On Ones since I launched Leadership Dynamics in 2003. It’s a powerful Leadership Strategy to not only unearth problems but to find solutions to them – it determines the emotional tone of an individual and provides positive solutions to move their heart, spirit and thinking to a higher level, which results in greater effectiveness.


How many effective One On Ones do you do a month?  

Do you really know the real problems in your business?


Transparency in communication is also necessary when it comes to problem solving. Without clear and true communication within a team, it’s extremely difficult to discover firstly discover problems that exist and then secondly to determine the root of the problems. If your people are too afraid to tell you about the problem because they don’t trust what you’ll do with the information and/or fear it will impact their job, you’re not going to solve your problems. You need to ensure you have created an environment where they can feel confident to honestly share their thoughts as to why a problem has occurred and then pull together as a team to find a solution. And again, the One On One Process is a highly effective forum to ensure effective and transparent communication, particularly as the trust builds between you and your team members during the process.


What do you have to be transparent about? 

Do you think your team are being open and transparent with their communication to you?

How could you improve?


Problem solving is also the greatest personal growth process. When you decide to tackle a problem head on, it empowers you, gives you some hope to equip you to overcome the adversity you’re dealing with – building your self-confidence and self-worth as you make progress. And all leaders who want to maximise the potential of their people will ensure their team are given the freedom to problem solve for themselves too. Highly effective leaders inspire their team to grow, inspire them to achieve and inspire them to solve problems. The word “inspire” literally means “to breath into”. Allowing your team to solve problems (and not to cover them up out of fear, or wait for you to solve it for them) leads to personal growth and inspires them to achieve more than they ever thought was possible.


Are you allowing your team to solve problems for themselves?


For every major problem there is always a major opportunity. Opportunities are found by overcoming problems. For example, eBay was created when Pierre Omidyar wanted to impress his girlfriend by creating a way for her to buy and sell Pezz dispensers with others from around the world. He created a small online auction site in his spare time……….a pretty incredible story of problem solving and opportunity!


What opportunities do you see with the problem you are currently addressing?  

Do you recognise that there could be opportunities that you haven’t even realised yet? Does that excite and energise you?


Allowing yourself to be led is also a key strategy to solving problems.  I was led by a great leader and mentor, who has now sadly passed, but his leadership of me over 22 years has been key in my personal and professional growth and in solving many problems I’ve faced. He gave me invaluable wisdom and advice over the years to help me solve my problems.


Who leads you? 

If you’re not currently being led, who do you think you could ask?


So I challenge you to:

1.     Implement strategies to find what the real problem is e.g. one on ones.

2.     Tackle the problem head on to find a solution and let your team find a solution for themselves too.

3.     Encourage transparent communication.

4. Be led by someone who you look up to and respect and is independent of your business so you receive honest and unbiased feedback.

5.     Seize the opportunities!!


Einstein said: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with the problems longer.”

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