How you can move from problem-focused to solution-focused

Idea-focused
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Emma Sue Prince
Director
Unimenta
Columnist
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Today’s leadership requires a totally different way of looking at things when it comes to encouraging creative problem-solving.

Leadership is about acknowledging a problem and immediately exploring the opportunity behind it. It believes that every problem hides a solution that opens up to new options. This is what we call a solutions-focused mindset.

Every conflict holds within its potential learning about ourselves and about the situation that needs to be seen. And it cannot be seen if people do not acknowledge their part of responsibility to the problem.

The path to developing a solutions-focused mindset begins with self-awareness.

Self-awareness, a connection to our inner potential, taps into the many senses that nature provides to human beings to explore the “signals” sent by any problem and to sense an opportunity beyond the problem itself.

Self-awareness invites us to:

  • Leave our ego and connect to our essence and authenticity. This means adopting a more constructive way of interacting with others, with less judgement and with a higher level of goodwill and acceptance.
  • Let go. Letting go is acknowledging the flow, focusing on what is (as opposed to what should be), and playing with it to build something greater and innovative.

Yet opening ourselves to self-awareness is a challenge in itself.

There are two main reasons why people in leadership positions might struggle with sincerely and accurately entering into self-awareness:

  • The first one is ego. Our societies have become very individualistic, and individuals need to feel that they exist and play a significant role. The result of this is a deeply held belief of one’s value that can translate itself into manipulative or arrogant behaviour.
  • The second is the need to control. Our corporate cultures are based on control: controlling time, controlling budgets and controlling others. And many high-functioning leaders tend to adopt a controlling mode to decision-making, relationships and opinions.

Combine these two factors and you get defensive attitudes.

When facing a problem, like in conflictual situations, people will protect themselves by finding an instigator to the conflict and thus denying their own responsibility in it.

The future is collaborative rather than competitive.

This belief is very restrictive, because it pushes people to remain focused on the problem and prevents them from finding constructive and positive solutions.

When it comes to problem-solving well, you need a specific mindset that connects strategy and creative thinking with people.

Teaching a solutions-focused mindset however can be a bit of a challenge. But one key way is through encouraging self-awareness.

That means firstly helping people discover themselves (their assumptions, values, drivers and their behaviours and their impact on others).

Secondly, doing this sufficiently so that there is consistent evaluation of the level of responsibility and accountability of any situation they face.

Thirdly, to learn and grow from it.

Easier said than done?

Self-awareness is being conscious of what you're good at while acknowledging what you still have yet to learn. This includes admitting when you don't have the answer and owning up to mistakes.

In our highly competitive culture, this can seem counterintuitive. In fact, many of us operate on the belief that we must appear as though we know everything all the time or else people will question our abilities, diminishing our effectiveness as leaders.

Self-awareness is being conscious of what you're good at while acknowledging what you still have yet to learn.

Leadership today, though, is about being humble enough and self-aware enough to keep learning, keep creating and encouraging the best from people.

The future is collaborative rather than competitive.

I believe we are moving from success being defined by personal drive, ambition and competition to one where there is connectivity and higher value networks.

The future is defined by innovation so we need to combine and connect know-how and competences to move to a solutions-based focus.

About Emma Sue Prince

Emma Sue is author of The Advantage – the 7 key soft skills you need to get ahead published by Pearson Business. She has designed an experiential learning workshop based on these skills: adaptability, empathy, integrity, optimism, being proactive, critical thinking and resilience and is currently licensing trainers to deliver these. 

http://www.unimenta.com/The-Advantage-training/Licensed-trainer

Emma Sue provides consultancy in emerging economies and travels regularly to India, Bangladesh and Tanzania advising on a range of large funded projects. She runs a free membership site – Unimenta – for practitioners working in soft skills. When not working Emma Sue runs a local gospel choir in her home town of Godalming, Surrey and is an avid baker.

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By cathalm
13th Apr 2018 15:08

I agree with you 100%, its easy to identify problems but not so easy to provide viable solutions.

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