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Tackling problems no one wants to touch

3 min read


As the leader of your team you have many roles, including coach, referee, teacher and boss. Being comfortable in multiple hats is a cornerstone of your position.

One thing you can’t be in such a position is an avoider. When a problem pops up that your team is eager to ignore, you have to be the one to rally the group together and get things done. Read on for more on how to take charge, get the ball moving and problem-solve together as an eager, effective team.

Face the demon

People tend to get overwhelmed by problems, and that’s why they ignore them, Others underwhelm a problem and use Band-Aid approaches to “fix” it. As a leader, neither of these responses is a viable option.

When facing a problem seems too much to deal with there is only one thing to do: deal with it. Admitting there is a difficult problem is the first necessary step.

Create a creative space

While this might seem like an “all hands on deck” situation, it’s suggested that you don’t make the problem-solving meeting mandatory. By affording employees the option to get involved, you’ll ensure attendees are engaged members eager for a solution. Also, this move evens the playing field for employees. They are not being summoned upon by their leader; they are willingly signing up to be a part of the solution group.

Welcome employees with as causal tone and context as possible. The more comfortable you can make employees, the freer they will be with ideas and creative sharing. Also, make problem-solving tangible. A PowerPoint and lecture is not as effective as a whiteboard or sticky notes. Allow participants the opportunity to make their mark and dig in.

Brainstorm questions, not solutions

When it comes to brainstorming sessions, it can be difficult to break the initial silence. The reason this problem exists is because no one has the right answer, so it’s understandable why the start of your meeting might feature a lingering, awkward pause. One way to take the pressure off and get people talking is to have them start with questions about the problem, rather than possible solutions.

Whether they are shouting them aloud, writing them on a whiteboard or posting sticky notes, cross-communication can begin to occur as each member participates. Allow a discussion to take shape and then, after questions are exhausted, start categorizing them. This type of breakdown will make tackling the problem more manageable. After the problems are categorized into tighter groups, you can start to organize possible solutions based on your gained perspectives.

Tests and teamwork

Decide as a team what your “best case” scenario would be, and propose possible solutions around that idea. Allow each possible solution to stand independently, and only rate and rank them after everyone has had their say. Your next steps will take place in real time — testing out the possible solutions and perhaps regrouping as those results take shape.

Capitalize on the power of teamwork and resist the urge to campaign for what you think is the best solution. Instead, empower your employees to take on different solution-oriented tasks and report back. The pride your team will experience when you do reach a solution will be palpable, and that pride can provide a boost to employee loyalty, teamwork and moral.

How do you facilitate problem-solving as a team?

Kelly Gregorio writes about leadership trends and tips while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a provider of merchant cash advances. You can read her daily business blog here.