People in management and leadership deal with problems all day long. Plans and projects get started, procedures are written and taught, but things go wrong. You’ve got a problem.
Challenges present themselves in so many forms. People problems, supply problems, customer problems, and so on and so on.
A lot of physical and emotional energy gets spent solving problems. For managers, problem solving is a big part of your job description. It can be argued that management is nothing but problem solving. Yet there is one thing that I find curious about most problems.
Usually, the problem is not the problem. The problem is the way we are thinking about the problem.
Our mindset drives so much of our approach to problem-solving. Honestly, we are biased by our prior experience and beliefs. Here are a few examples:
- If the problem involves money, does our view about money trip us? (see How Much Is Enough)
- If the problem includes certain people, do we have an attitude about that person or persons?
- If the problem is about a client, do we have a particular view of that client based on prior dealings?
In what ways do you hinder your problem solving with your own biases? That’s a tough question. Seeking open, objective opinions about problems can be refreshing.
Victor Emil Frankl (1905 – 1997), Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, devoted his life to studying, understanding and promoting “meaning.” His famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, tells the story of how he survived the Holocaust by finding personal meaning in the experience, which gave him the will to live through it.
He went on to later establish a new school of existential therapy called logotherapy, based in the premise that man’s underlying motivator in life is a “will to meaning,” even in the most difficult of circumstances.
In some of Frankl’s he describes our viewpoint as being so critical to understanding the things around us. Here’s a diagram to explain this thinking.
In this drawing, the cylinder is the “thing”, the problem or the issue. From one view, the issue looks square (see left side). Yet from another view, the issue looks round (see bottom).
Either of these outside views is not wrong. But they are not complete
The Real Question
The next time a problem presents itself, ask yourself whether the problem is really the problem. Instead ask “is my way of looking at life the real problem here”?
Question: How did you look at your last big problem? Was the outcome what you expected?