Leaders have to be able to deal with problems. As much as you might wish your team and business is going to run smoothly, it won’t. That’s a pipe dream (excuse the pun for my friends in the plumbing industry here).
A lot of folks hate the idea of “problems.” A lot of people see this as something to be overcome or fixed, but as leaders, we’re missing out on a huge opportunity here if this is the mindset we take. I don’t think in terms of problems; I think in terms of opportunities to take on new challenges and help my team become more rounded and stronger for when bumps like these arise in the road.
From my roots as a leader in the home-service space to my calling as a coach to leaders in hundreds of different industries, I’ve seen great leaders rise to the occasion and deal with the problems in a long-term, strengthening way. And I’ve seen others go for the short-term and deal with the same problems week after week, month after month and year after year until they give up.
I don’t want you to fall into the second category, so I wanted to share with you how I think about problem-solving for the long term with my team and making a long-lasting difference.
Find the resistance in your business and don’t run from it
Take a moment and think about your life and your business. Where is the most resistance showing up? Where are things the hardest? Where do things seem to be going the most wrong?
Too often, we’re trained in the back of our minds to avoid this pain and struggle. We shy from it.
But leaders need to be made of sterner stuff. We do the hard things so we can make a lasting impact in our business, our team and those we serve.
Do the inventory and find the parts that are giving you the most resistance. This is actually a great opportunity. This is the universe telling you exactly what you need to work on to get the most out of your team. Here are a few things I go over with clients when we do this kind of “problem” inventory:
- Leadership structure;
- Lead flow;
- Call center;
- Your own capability;
- Communication; and
- Public relations.
There are, of course, a ton more potential problems out there, but consider this if you don’t have an idea jump right out at you.
The easiest and cheapest [solutions] are almost never the right ones. Most of the time, the best solutions are when you spend time, energy, training and maybe some money in fixing the framework and building new systems.
Look at all solutions: Easy, hard, cheap, expensive, quick and long
We all have some kind of procedure for tackling problems. Hopefully, it’s not to ignore it, but hey, if it is, this is the perfect little article for you. But many times, we enter a sort of brainstorming stage. This is where we come up with potential solutions for the issue at hand. Some leaders do this on their own, some people journal about it, some people create a team and work on ideas together.
But a common mistake folks make is to pick the first idea they come up with and run with it. I’ve been guilty of this myself, and believe me, friends, it’s burned me more times than I’d care to admit. We need to consider many different solutions. No idea is a bad idea (at least at this stage).
Then, we need to take the time to reflect, maybe get some other relevant leaders on board, and talk about those ideas. Which ones seem like they’ll work? Which ones are easy or quick? Which ones are hard?
I’ll give you a shortcut here. The easiest and cheapest ones are almost never the right ones. Most of the time, the best solutions are when you spend time, energy, training and maybe some money in fixing the framework and building new systems to deal with issues and make your team stronger.
Think about it like an old home in Arizona. Your team is like a house with all the windows shut in the middle of the hottest summer, and the house doesn’t have A/C. This heat is a serious problem, and you need to deal with it as the leader of the house. If you let it go as it is, some of your members and your teams could have potentially serious complications. So as the leader, you look at how to deal with this, and you come up with two big options: Open some windows and/or install air conditioning.
Which is the path of least resistance? Opening windows. It doesn’t work as well and it only works temporarily. Yes, it’s easier, but is it the best option? In some cases, maybe, but I bet we in the home service businesses know the value of a good A/C system in someone’s house. I know I do. So the better, stronger opportunity to fix a “problem” is to go the extra mile and tackle the tougher project. It’s almost like these “problems” are really motivating factors in creating value to your business.
Now tackle the problem with this long-term solution. But wait, there’s more!
Pass your value in problem-solving down the line
You’re not done yet. In solving the problem this way, you’ve done most of the leg work. Great, but it’s not sustainable for every issue. No matter how amazing you are as a leader or how skilled you are at your job, you aren’t the best problem-solver for every situation.
A good leader is nothing without their team. You need to know your team and each person’s individual strength and primary purpose in life. So model your long-term, tough thinking about problems — or I should say, opportunities — and help your team step up. This is what really makes for a stronger team and a more successful business.
It all starts with you as the leader. So lean into the toughness, the pain, the resistance, go for the best solution (not the easiest), and pass these powerful values on to your team for powerful change and growth.