How much of your day do you spend problem solving? It could be responding to requests from senior leaders, helping team members work through an issue, or just figuring out where to park in the morning.
If you’re anything like me, it seems like every day is a stream of problems waiting to be solved (or prevented).
Problem solving is the bread and butter of all leaders – it’s what we do and where we shine. Not only do we tackle problems directly, we are charged with empowering and coaching others to solve continually more challenging problems.
A Leader’s Role in Problem Solving
The easy thing to do, when presented with a problem by someone on our team, is to solve it. After all, it’s what we do. However, just because we can solve a problem doesn’t mean we should.
When helping someone else with a problem, problem solving skills may or may not get a workout – depending on whether we have seen a problem like this before and already possess the wherewithal to figure it out.
When we empower our people to solve the problem, however, both of us get development. We exercise our coaching skills (and our restraint…sometimes we just want to jump in!) and our folks build their problem solving skills. By enabling others, we raise the capability of us both.
Whether we are solving a problem ourselves, or guiding someone else through the process, there is a quick rule of thumb we can use to make sure we understand and are solving the right problem…the Rules of 5.
When we receive critical feedback or a bad review, ideally it is partnered with on-going and actionable feedback from our manager that can help us move forward productively.
What should we do if the feedback isn’t very clear?
Sometimes, it’s difficult to provide actionable feedback. The WHAT we do could be fine, but HOW we do it may need some work. If we say and do all the right things, we can still be perceived negatively. It may be difficult for our manager to help us understand why and what to do about it.
Vague feedback is easy to ignore
Vague feedback can be very frustrating. Years ago, I was told I made “some people” feel uncomfortable. When I pushed, there was no specific incident, nothing I said or did, and no contacts that I could speak with for more information.
With no specifics, I asked the question I was most concerned about: “Do I step on people or treat them poorly in my attempts to move things forward?”
The answer was “No. Your team, customers and partners all respect you and the way you interact with them.”
So I dismissed the feedback.
Bad idea. The feedback was still be meaningful, IF I could figure out what it meant and what to do about it. It took many years, and input from an executive coach, but I finally figured it out.
No matter how hard we work or how talented we are, it’s always possible to be on the receiving end of a bad review.
It may not be easy to hear and we may feel like we’ve had the rug pulled out from underneath us. Yet we must keep moving forward and doing our best to deliver, or next year’s review could be the same or worse.
What do we do to ensure one bad rating doesn’t become the start of a negative trend? MARCH.
Critical feedback is supposed to be a gift. Sometimes, however, that gift can be hard to take.
If it the feedback feels unexpected in any way – we have to go through the stages of loss. While critical feedback won’t kill us, it’s important to recognize the loss of alignment between our manager’s perception and our own.
The stages may pass quickly or take a period of time, but they are consistent:
- Denial – The feedback isn’t true.
- Anger – It could be true, but I shouldn’t have been surprised.
- Bargaining – If only I had done x, y, or z differently.
- Depression – It’s true and I suck.
Until we can get through these early stages, we cannot move forward with positive change that will improve our results next year.
We have limited minutes available to us each day. However, each of us has the same amount of time. The difference is in how we choose to spend it.
If we are committed to continued improvement of our leadership performance, some amount of time each day must be directed to those activities. Luckily, improving ourselves does not have to take a lot of time, only intention and a few minutes of focus.
Whether you carve out dedicated time each day, or have an ad hoc approach to finding time when and where you can, here is a leadership development bucket list of ideas to maximize 2, 5, 10 or 30 minutes.
2 Minutes – Mental Reboot
A thank you card will take little time, but the impact is lasting.
Often, we can get caught up in what’s going on around us and lose sight of what’s important. If you only have a minute or two, focus on rebooting your thinking.
Ever since I started this writing journey, Star Wars has been a part of it.
With the new movie, there are new stories, characters and learnings to absorb and share. Good and bad examples of how to lead ourselves and others.
If you have not seen the movie, and plan to, please stop here. It’s been a month and the initial frenzy has passed. Go, enjoy, and I’ll see you afterwards.
If you’re still with me…what a ride! For me, the movie was reminiscent of the originals I grew up with, yet still offered a fresh story of heroes and villains.
Watching the movie (again and again), I was struck by how much the paths of both character types were influenced by mentors. By the resulting impact mentors can have on our choices and development.
Everywhere we turn, we can find advice on how to be a better version of ourselves. A better leader, employee, spouse, parent or friend.
In order to improve anything, we must take action. Read this article. Attend this conference. Follow x steps to a better blah blah blah.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Sure, assuming we don’t already have a full plate. That we aren’t over-scheduled, overloaded and overwhelmed.
The Importance of Creating Time and Space
Last month, I attended Mass Conference for Women. Following the event, I was asked to participate in a panel, where several of us shared our experience.
At the end, we were asked to relate the most important take-away that we would bring back to our role, team or life.
My aha moment wasn’t at the conference itself. The sessions were interesting and provided good insight in a number of areas, but by themselves, they offered little value without two critical components: time and space.
I realized those were the true gifts the conference offered. Time away from my desk, team, and family was not enough. I also had to let go of my daily commitments long enough to actively listen and engage.
While we may be able to find time, it is only by creating space that we open ourselves to opportunity. If our heads are buzzing with a million and one things, there is no room left for new information.
Creating mental and physical distance for our commitments creates capacity for learning. For our aha moments.