Are You Focused on Problems—or Solutions?

Below is an excerpt from my new coaching modules, The 24/7 Leader: Transforming Personal & Professional Life:

Inspiring leaders know there’s a time to think creatively and a time to think critically.

They shift attention away from problems and toward solutions by continually describing what success looks like.

They share their own vision for desired outcomes moving forward:

  • Let’s cross-train the team so everyone is less stressed when people take vacation or sick days.
  • I’d love to see us create a new product line! What would need to exist for us to explore several options?
  • I envision a hiring process that enables us to find people who fit into our company culture. How do we get there?

Then, after they communicate the vision, great leaders switch off the analytical, judgmental part of their brain while the team has fun imagining new possibilities.

Once several pathways are on the table, these leaders signal that it’s time to turn the analytical brain back on. They ask rigorous, curious questions, share their criteria for evaluating options, and listen as the team discusses which ideas have the best chance of succeeding.

When we want to create effective collaboration or build great relationships with others, we want to avoid “critical judger” questions and instead ask “curious learner” questions—the kind that open up the creative part of the brain and enable us to solve complex problems together.

These creative-thinking “curious learner” questions sound like:

  • What does great service look like?
  • What are the needs or requirements you have for this process?
  • How can we accomplish these tasks even more efficiently together?
  • How could we make something even better than what we have now?

When we ask questions about building something for a greater good, we’re offering an invitation to collaborate. That invitation makes the other person feel valued, which expands rather than squashes them. It also generates the positive emotional state essential for accelerated learning and problem solving.

None of us does our best thinking when we’re mired in fear, frustration, or despair, which is why inspiring leaders keep their people focused on solutions, not problems.

Inspiring leaders stay focused on what they want to create—whether it’s a particular behavior, a solution, a new product, a better relationship, or a new strategic plan—and they teach their teams to do the same.

Your Coaching Challenge:

  • Describe in 1-2 sentences what you want to create. How will you make it a habit to regularly communicate this to your team?
  • What "curious learner" questions work best for you? Which do you want to start using?
  • What will you do next? What actions will you take as a result of reading this to build a solutions-focused mindset for yourself and your team?

If you would like to take this deeper, join "The 24/7 Leader" coaching process and peer mastermind. To enroll, please contact us. For more support in your team's development, let's talk: 888-959-1188.