Are You Really Effective at Problem-solving?

Recently an executive I am coaching mentioned that some of his team members could not think out of the box.  An hour later, one of my partners contacted me because he was frustrated by a potential client’s indecisiveness.  For the second time, he met with “Prospect X” who, at the end of the meeting, indicated he was signing on to work with us. Also for the second time, Prospect X reversed tracks the next day by sending an e-mail that said that he loved what he’d heard at the meeting, but would delay our working together.  While the two incidents may appear unrelated, both have a common thread: Effective problem-solving.

In the first case, my client began the conversation with the comment that his people “could not think out of the box.”  As we got deeper into our conversation he conceded that this was probably a misperception on his part. His real concern was that a particular team member seemed unable to see things from my client’s perspective. He was mistaking that for their ability to solve problems.  We determined that in his conversation with his team members there were two issues going unaddressed: 1) goal clarity and 2) problem definition.

Many times people actively work to solve a “problem” that either is not the core issue or ought not to be solved to begin with. In my experience, this is because goals are not clearly defined or brought into perspective.  Let’s assume your company develops websites for other major companies.  In addition, the technical engineer assigned to program the latest project is not aware that his firm lost money on the last two projects he worked and perceived him as a strong contributing factor to those losses.  The technical engineer wants to start immediately and do the programming the same way he had for the two money-losers.  Instead, the project manager asks him to a planning meeting and asks the technical engineer, “How can we do this project differently?”  A conflict then ensues that has nothing to do with getting this project done.  The technical engineer, who knows a lot more about programming than the project manager, got insulted.  He responded, “Do you not trust me?”  Clearly, the discussion had taken a wrong turn. Why? Was the technical engineer not capable of being creative (i.e., thinking out of the box)?

The answer is “No.” As any good programmer knows, no two projects are exactly alike, and creativity is critical to getting a websites to meet the client’s specifications.  The real issue was how both parties were approaching the web project.  The manager’s goals were to complete the project in less time than was budgeted and exceed the client’s expectations at the same time. The technical engineer saw his job as not reinventing the wheel to complete a project that was similar to two he had already done, which he knew he was more than capable of doing. Had the manager started the discussion stating the goals and establishing the fact that management was not pleased with the two previous jobs, the discussion would have led down a conceptually better path to encourage the creativity needed.

In the second case, the topic that needs to be addressed is roles and responsibilities. My partner did not properly help the client to see how essential our services are to his success and blamed the fact he was not hired on a failure of the other person.  He is only partially correct.  My partner’s role was to help the prospect look at all the facts and determine how to best achieve his goals.  What is the problem here?

My partner believes that the CEO is flaky. Is he correct? Maybe so. However, it could be any of the following issues:

  • My partner may not know what the CEO’s goals are.
  • The CEO does not trust that what is being proposed will work and is just not telling my partner.
  • The company has a cash flow problem and cannot afford us.
  • The CEO does not realize how much revenue he will lose forever because the sales position his company needs will take 90 days to implement.  By delaying the project for five months, the CEO loses five months of sales forever.
  • The CEO want  to shop around before he commits.

Until my partner finds out the real issue he will not be able to sign on this potential client.

We have found that the concepts from the Four Decisions ProgramTM can provide a simple and effective way to help you with problem solving and clearly define goals. Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at (877) 692-6211 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.