Problem solving skills

140Effective problem solving is a key leadership skill. Problems can sometimes be seen as opportunities, and should always be seen as a learning experience.

Problem solving basically involves similar steps to decision making;-

  • Evaluate the problem or situation, or the potential problem
  • Break it down into key components
  • Collect facts, analyse potential solutions and their likely outcomes.
  • Consider different ways to resolve the problem
  • Decide on the most appropriate solution

The skills needed here are slightly different, usually involving both analytical and creative skills .Critical thinking skills help evaluate the problem and to make decisions. Sometimes a logical and methodical approach works best and sometimes technical knowledge or subject knowledge is also needed.

Practical tip – coaching problem solving

In my experience problem solving presents one of the greatest opportunities to train staff on the job. Usually when an employee is not sure how to handle a problem they bring it to their manager. New and inexperienced employees will just bring the problem, often in a state of panic and with little fact checking having been undertaken, and ask for help. Employees who have more experience will approach the manager, explain the problem and propose a solution, which they are looking to the manager to endorse.

The manager’s role here is to encourage them to move from the first scenario to the second. They can do this by helping the member of staff to think through the problem, collect the relevant information, and through careful questioning, lead them in the right direction, allowing them to draw their own conclusion and propose their own solution.

It is tempting, especially if time is short, for the manager to just deal with the problem themselves, but this does not allow staff the opportunity to develop their own skills.

Developing People Skills

There are a number of scenarios that leaders and managers will regularly find themselves in. For example having to carry our performance appraisals, manage conflict, and conduct meetings. There are certain tips, tools and techniques which can be employed to enable effective performance in these areas.

We will look at each of these in more detail. Where relevant I have included the link to modules already on this site, and summarised them for you. For more detail please follow the link to the module.

In larger companies there will be a HR department that will deal with recruitment and dismissal of staff, often to ensure all legal aspects are correctly covered. Some managers will become involved in this work, which we have addressed in other modules on the site

Here we will consider and revisit some of the skills that are required of most leaders and managers. These skills can be practised and honed to make you a better manager and leader. As we discussed earlier in this series of modules, becoming proficient and excelling in these skills will help to build your chances of success.

Leaders and managers must have skills in leading people and working with others, individually and in groups. This calls for a range of skills, including

  • Delegation Skills
  • Motivating Others
  • Performance management and appraisals,
  • Giving Feedback
  • Using Transactional Analysis
  • Conducting Meetings
  • Persuading and influencing skills
  • Managing conflict

So we will have a look at each of these in the next few modules.