You know the story…you’re right in the middle of something, and then a problem comes out of left-field. How do you react? How you face problems is one of the critical factors that helps determine how successful you will be as a manager.
Many managers panic or resist problems, thinking that by ignoring it or passing it on, somehow it’s solved. Firstly, assume there is an answer out there… it just needs to be found. Worrying about it gets you nowhere; working towards the answer will get you everywhere. I’m not just referring to being positive, but the state of mind you decide to choose will play a big part in the way the problem will be handled.
Now, ask yourself ‘what are the facts?’. Many problems are not as big as they seem at first, once everything is known. Also, facts will help you find a better solution, faster. Knowing this is the next step allows you to think logically about the situation. If you encounter a problem, simply begin asking questions and gather the facts. Sometimes you have dig to get to the real problem! This is where your quality questioning comes in.
As a manager, sometimes you get involved in situations that don’t need too much of your time. You might be able, having summarised exactly what the situation is, to put the problem back to someone else or identify how it can be dealt with in a different way. If you are the best person to deal with it, think of what you, personally can do to deal with it. Brainstorm some ideas. Expand your thinking to identify what alternatives you might have
Consider what research you might do to solve the problem- maybe the internet could help, asking other people, or reading how others have solved the problem might help. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know it all, and that your first instinct for an answer is necessarily the best. Bounce your ideas off other people, even if you think they know less on the subject. Sometimes the more you know, the more you can overlook the obvious.
Finally, make your decision, and put it into action. Think short-term as well as long. Follow through properly. Allow yourself the time to pick the right solution and set milestones to measure its effectiveness. Monitor those solutions and make sure you have some contingencies, just in case.
By following logical steps, you identify what progress you can make with specific problems and will soon have them under control.
Originally published: 2 February, 2011
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