I am taking a break from writing for a few days to evaluate the second half of 2012 and for a speaking engagement in Southern California. While I’m away, I’m re-posting some of my most popular posts from the last year. I hope you enjoy reading or re-reading these posts. I’ll be back and better than ever on July 16, 2012!
Don’t let the title of this post fool you. Changing your perspective may be the very thing you need to do in order to change (think solve) the problem.
Too often, people are surprised by problems. Not only are they surprised, they’re quickly offended or angry by the situation. They think problem-free living should be the norm. So when problems do occur they end up disappointed by life. They think that somehow, someway, life has it in for them.
But what if it’s not about the problem? What if it is more about one’s perspective of the problem?
What if, instead of looking at a problem and asking, “Why?” we started asking some different questions.
As a leader, you can’t be surprised by problems. The best you can do is to be prepared for them. One of the ways a leader prepares is to have the right perspective when problems occur. The questions you ask about the problem has a way of shaping the perspective you have toward the problem. In fact, your ability to handle (as well as solve) the problem is often determined by the questions you ask. Perhaps it’s time to ask better questions.
I’d like to offer five questions that can change your perspective about the problem you might find yourself facing right now. I’ve asked my fair share of “why?” questions and they have the tendency to leave me a little discouraged.
If you want to lead both yourself and others through the process of solving problems, not merely trying to alleviate everyone’s surprise by them, consider asking the following questions:
What do I need to do differently to solve this problem?
Let’s start with a great Albert Einstein quote: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Einstein knew that something needed to change if the problem was going to be solved. He started with changing his thinking (perspective). If there is a problem, something needs to change. Start with yourself.
What do I need to do to be the right kind of person in the midst of this problem?
This is a character issue. You may not find an immediate solution to your problem. You may not have control or influence on what’s causing the problem. You may not like what the problem is causing.
Whatever the situation, the one thing you do have control over is yourself. In most cases, problems and crisis have a way of exposing who we really are. But they also provide an opportunity to deepen and strengthen our character if we are focused on it. Perhaps the next problem you face can be the opportunity to truly see “what you’re made of.”
What is keeping me from solving this problem?
If you ask this question, you might quickly discover that it’s your perspective of the problem that is in your way. Or maybe it’s the way you’ve identified the problem. The point of this question is to identify the obstacles that keep you from being a problem-solver.
What will solving this problem make possible?
This is a vision question. Sometimes people won’t solve a problem because they have grown comfortable living with the problem. This is a question that gets you thinking about the opportunities that are out there if you didn’t have this problem standing in your way. This is the type of question leaders ask to encourage people to change for the purpose of a better and brighter future.
What kind of story do I want to tell a year from now about this problem?
History is made up of case studies on how people handled their problems. This question encourages you to work through your problem in a way that can teach and train others who may face similar difficulties.
One of the saddest stories you can tell is one filled with regret. It would be a shame to state that you’re facing the same problem a year from now because you failed to do something about it right now.
My encouragement to you is to not be surprised by problems. They are the very reason why leadership is necessary. If you’re not satisfied with the answers you receive in regards to your problem-solving efforts, it might simply mean you need to ask different questions.