PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS

Are you resourceful and able to creatively solve problems that will inevitably arise? Will you take ownership of problems or leave them for someone else?

People tend to do three things when faced with a problem: they get afraid or uncomfortable and wish it would go away; they feel that they have to come up with an answer and it has to be the right answer; and they look for someone to blame. Being faced with a problem becomes a problem. And that's a problem because, in fact, there are always going to be problems!

There are two important things to remember about problems and conflicts: they happen all the time and they are opportunities to improve the system and the relationships. They are actually providing us with information that we can use to fix what needs fixing and do a better job.

Here are seven-steps for an effective problem-solving process.

  1. Identify the issues.
    • Be clear about what the problem is.
    • Remember that different people might have different views of what the issues are.
       
  2. Understand everyone's interests.
    • This is a critical step that is usually missing.
    • Interests are the needs that you want satisfied by any given solution. We often ignore our true interests as we become attached to one particular solution.
    • The best solution is the one that satisfies everyone's interests.
    • This is the time for active listening. Put down your differences for awhile and listen to each other with the intention to understand.
       
  3. List the possible solutions (options)
    • This is the time to do some brainstorming. There may be lots of room for creativity.
    • Separate the listing of options from the evaluation of the options.
       
  4. Evaluate the options.
    • What are the pluses and minuses?
    • Separate the evaluation of options from the selection of options.
       
  5. Select an option or options.
    • What's the best option, in the balance?
    • Is there a way to "bundle" a number of options together for a more satisfactory solution?
       
  6. Document the agreement(s).
    • Don't rely on memory.
    • Writing it down will help you think through all the details and implications.
       
  7. Agree on contingencies, monitoring, and evaluation.
    • Conditions may change. Make contingency agreements about foreseeable future circumstances (If-then!).
    • How will you monitor compliance and follow-through?
    • Create opportunities to evaluate the agreements and their implementation. ("Let's try it this way for three months and then look at it.")[1]

 

Job Searching. One of the most challenging problems you may encounter in your career is getting a job to begin with.  While we have long been encouraged by the virtue of persistence, it is easy to become discouraged quickly when the job market is moving at a snail’s pace. 

Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of SixFigureStart, says persistence does pay off, so long as we remember one thing: There is a difference between smart persistence and blind persistence.

"Persistence to a goal pays off as long as you can be flexible on how you get there," she says. "If your job search isn't yielding offers, then whatever you are doing is not working. You may have the right role and companies in mind, but your marketing, your interview technique, your networking approach or something else about how you are presenting yourself to these prospects is off. Or the prospects themselves may be wrong for you."[2]

With that in mind, this article[3] provides are a few strategies for successful, smart persistence.

You may be familiar with Adam Savage, co-host of the show MythBusters.  Watch this video[4] about his perspective on problem solving and how he goes about doing it (the heart of the conversation starts at 7:30 minutes in).



[1] Hicks, Tim. "Seven Steps for Effective Problem Solving in the Workplace." Mediate.com - US and World Leading Mediation Web Site - Find Mediators. < http://www.mediate.com/articles/thicks.cfm >.

[2] " MSN Careers - Does Persistence Really Pay? - Career Advice Article." Jobs & Careers Search Engine – MSN Careers. < http://msn.careerbuilder.com/Article/MSN-2418-Job-Search-Does-Persistence-Really-Pay/ >.

[3] Ibid.

[4] " MythBusters' Adam Savage on Problem Solving: How I Do It - YouTube ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.. < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhAt-7i36G8 >.