In the course of our workday we all face different challenges and problems that require effective solutions – from dealing with an unhappy customer to executing a major strategic initiative and getting desired results. Problems will always be there. We cannot completely eliminate them from our lives, but we can have a different approach to dealing with challenges and solving problems more effectively.
The difference in approach lies in asking the right questions. Effective leaders ask profound questions before making a major decision or solving problems. Asking the right questions will provide the right answers. Having the right answers will save time and provide the most effective solution.
“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” – Voltaire
It’s very easy to start doing things without asking profound questions about the problem only to discover later that you worked on solving the wrong problem. Sometimes we don’t have enough time to pause and reflect in the midst of distractions, speed and intensity of a modern workday.
The list of 10 profound questions
Here is the list of 10 questions that will help you to solve problems more effectively and get outstanding results. They’ve helped me, my teams and my clients for many years already. This particular list of questions is adopted from a book “Leading With Confidence” by Bobb Biehl, one of my favorite authors.
Whenever you deal with a major problem or challenge, ask these questions.
1. How would I prioritize the problems I face today?
Don’t try to solve all problems at once – prioritize. Whether you face 3 problems, 30, or 300, make them stand in line so you face only one at a time.
2. In a single sentence, what is the problem?
Keep in mind the difference between solving a problem and decision making. A decision is a choice you make between two or more alternatives: “Should I fly to Phoenix or Chicago?” A problem is a situation that’s counter to your intentions or expectations: “I meant to fly to Chicago, but I ended up in Detroit.”
3. Am I emotionally or physically fatigued?
If so, it may take you hours of struggle to find a solution that you might otherwise discover in minutes.
4. What are the facts related to this problem?
Remember Peter Drucker’s words: “Once the facts are clear, the decisions jump at you.” What are the facts related to the problem? What are your most realistic options for solving it?
5. Why does the problem exist?
What caused this problem, and how can we keep it from ever happening again?
6. What are the 3 greatest resources I can bring to bear on this problem?
The best resources might be other people, formulas, tools, or something else. Write them down.
7. Who can help me solve this problem?
An expert might be able to help you. Or perhaps simply finding someone with an objective viewpoint could help, someone who sees the situation differently from those involved in it day to day.
8. Should I spend more money to reduce the time needed to solve this problem?
If you have the money, you can typically buy the tools or hire the people to help shorten the amount of time it will take to find a solution. Some problems are so critical they must be solve immediately, and thus require lots of money to solve. Other problems can wait. And of course, some problems take a certain amount of time regardless of the amount of resources you spend. For example, to make a baby takes nine months, regardless of the number of mothers you assign to the task.
9. Of all the potential solutions to this problem, which one has the greatest potential to be right? And which one involves the lowest risk?
Weigh all the possible solutions before deciding, then go to the single best solution.
10. What policy would keep this problem from recurring?
Few people can give a clear definition for the word policy. A working definition for a leader’s purpose is this: A policy is something we always do, or something we never do. In the process of solving the problem, learn what you can to help you avoid a recurrence.
“It’s not that they can’t see the solution. They can’t see the problem.” – G.K. Chesterton
Have a great day!
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