"Avoiding a problem only distances yourself from the solution. Problem-solving is a choice. You either choose to confront it, or you choose to live with it. But managers are often too patient. They want to give people time to figure things out because solutions aren't simple and they often create more problems.
But four things about problems:
- You're always going to have them.
- They don't self-correct.
- They tend to get worse.
- And they tend to spread.
Now I get it. You've got to pick and choose your battles because you can't fix everything at once. But the problems you choose to tackle reflect your priorities. In a service business, customers are the top priority. So you spend most of your time tackling urgent client demands. But most client facing problems are caused by internal problems. You're living with a broken process, internal dysfunction, or under-performers.
Managers in the service business are like the fire department. Their most visible duty is to fight fires. But they're also responsible for fire prevention. You're fighting fires when you're solving client-facing problems, and you're preventing fires when you're solving internal problems. And you've got to do both.
Here are some best practices:
- Keep a running list of your problems. When you write them down, it's hard to ignore them. It's like a to-do list.
- When you make the list, make sure the problems are yours. Now, I'm not advocating for a "it's not my problem mentality", but prioritize the problems that you're accountable for solving.
- Then focus on immediacy and impact. Some solutions take time. They're not right in front of you, so focus on the solutions that are. But remember, when there's no immediate solution, you can still begin the solution.Problem-solving is a process. There's a series of little baby steps that enable longer term solutions, and those are immediately in front of you.
- Now, I want you to focus on impact. Some solutions fix multiple problems, and those are high impact solutions. Now, don't confuse problems with symptoms. Any firefighter is going to tell you that most fires are preventable. The problem isn't the fire, it's the things that caused the fire.
Impactful solutions get to the root of the problem. They don't put bandaids on symptoms. So, prioritize your list of problems.
- If a solution is immediate and impactful, jump on it.
- If it's not immediate, but it is impactful, start laying the groundwork now. Don't wait.
- If it's immediate but has a lower impact, delegate that solution to your team.
- And if it's not immediate or impactful, set it aside for now, you've got other, more important fires to fight.
Remember, time is your most precious asset. And the time it takes to enact immediate and impactful solutions can't be wasted. You never get the time back and the problems don't go away."
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