08 Five Strategies to Sharpen Your Problem Solving Skills So You Can Save Time and Get Results

problem solver, how to solve problems, podcast on self-doubt, goals, results

Become A Master Problem Solver

In the third episode in our Winner’s Mindset series, I share the 5 Strategies of Problem Solving. Are you a problem solver? Problem solvers focus on getting results and putting the systems in place to make sure they last. They are not easily distracted by praise or recognition, and do not engage in blaming others. If you want to stop wasting time and get results, then this episode is for you.

  1. Identify all possible problems
  2. problems are rarely isolated
  3. Take action
  4. Don’t worry about blame
  5. Reevaluate the problem

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  1. Identify all possible problems [01:33]

You may find yourself solving a fraction of the overall problem when you do not spend enough time brainstorming the issue. There are some people who believe the goal of every meeting is to leave with a solution. This sounds good on the surface, but when you prematurely identify the problem and rush to the solution, you will find yourself having to address the same problem in the next meeting.

You want to make sure you are measuring twice and cutting once.

When you take a moment to identify the problem, you are making sure you are solving for the leading cause of your issue.

I recall being in meetings where the sales person is interpreting the information in relation to the customer, and the engineer is reflecting on the impact to operations, and the accountant is drilling into the financial impact of the decision.

When it comes to deciding which action to take, whose goal should take priority? We make the mistake of believing our decision can address the needs of everyone, but that is not realistic.

If the goal is to keep customer costs down, that may negatively impact the burden on operations and the finance. If the goal is to raise prices to ensure you meet your forecast, that may sales and operations feel they need to reign in on their spending to keep costs down.

. [03:24]

  1. Problems are rarely isolated. [03:53]

Some of the changes we make are going be counterproductive to our overall goals.

Think of your favorite movie that has a sequel. The very last scene in the movie is the launch point of the next movie, and the last scene is usually considered a “good” thing by most. It just had an unintended consequence.

Good stories are often driven by conflict, because when the conflict is gone, the story is over.

This is true in Marvel and DC movies, but it is also true in your favorite love stories. When the conflict is over (boy and girl get together), the story is over. So in order to keep the story going, you will see the writers create misunderstandings and overreactions to progress the plot further.  [05:01]

In the first Avengers, they won the battle in New York, but an unintended consequence was used as the launch point of Captain America, Civil War. The battle in New York killed the family of the antagonist, who was now driven by revenge to destroy the Avengers.

Each movie is linked to the next by the simple technique of thinking of the worst possible outcome that could come from the last action.

I want you to look at your solutions the same way.  Your solution is going to fix your current problem (great), but are there any untended consequences you are overlooking? [06:45]

Cash For Clunkers Program [06:59]

If you are not familiar with the program, the United States government was paying people to bring in their high gas mileage automobile in exchange for a voucher to purchase an energy efficient car.

This program was intended to stimulate the automobile industry, as well as the overall economy. The program worked in the sense that it created the desired results, but there was an unintended consequence. [07:23]

Charity’s like the Little Boys Ranch received a portion of their revenue from people donating old automobiles to them. The charity sell the car for parts or auction the vehicle as a whole.

As a result of the government solving the economic problem, they created problems for those companies that would have received the old car.

You just make sure you remember that problems are rarely isolated.

  1. Take action

Don’t procrastinate in the analysis phase. Once you have prepared for the problem, allow yourself the ability to take action on your plan.

Understand that you were probably not able to think of every possible outcome, but that’s okay. Even if you spend another year preparing, you still would not have prepared for everything. Sometimes you just got to put all the chips in the middle of the table and see how you stack-up against everyone else.


You are 100% correct to say that I don’t know everything, but you are 100% incorrect to say that means I can’t move forward.

Take action, be forgiving of yourself, allow yourself the ability to make mistakes and leave room for the possibility you prepared for one scenario and something unexpected may happen.

We should look at failure as an opportunity to grow.  [09:04]

  1. Don’t worry about blame [09:36]

  • On one end of the spectrum is people who accept blame for everything (even things that have absolutely no relation to them).
    • Internal failure: inept, foolish, irresponsible, etc.
  • On the other end of the spectrum are people who NEVER accept blame for anything (even if it has their fingerprints all over it).
    • Outside of Control: fate, luck, chance, etc.

People who blame others have the uncanny ability to excuse themselves for actions they blame others for engaging.   [10:22]

Don’t Chase Crazy – If you chase crazy long enough, people will not be able to tell who is the crazy person. [10:52]

The Negative Features of Assigning Blame: [11:19] 

  • Defense mode.Great way to keep your self-esteem and sense of self high because you are never examining your own flaws and shortcomings.
  • Attack mode. You go in attack mode and eviscerate the other person to resolve conflicts. You are purposely trying to hurt them.
  • Responsibility-Free. If it is n ot your fault, then you have nothing to fix. Insert your favorite politician here.
  • People lie. Whether they are delusional, lying to themselves, lying to you, or all of the above… it happens. Everyone has lied at some point in their life, so it should come as no surprise that someone caught in a bad situation will try to lie their way out of it.
  1. Reevaluate the problem [13:34]

It is a bad idea to recommend a solution and then place the problem on the shelf; and completely forget about it.

Could you imagine a doctor performing a surgery and not scheduling a follow-up appointment? Even though the doctor feels like he solved my problem and everything is okay, it would be negligent for him to never look at my knee again.

We need to make sure our solutions create the desired outcome.

Don’t put the problem on the shelf when you believe you solved it. Schedule a review depending on the length of time it will take to get measurable data.  Whether that is 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 years, make sure you set up some time to take another look at your solution.

I remember teaching a class and one student was trying to figure out if my teaching style was effective for them. They voiced their concern with another teacher and that teacher talked to the education director. They ended up changing the entire class around without speaking to anyone else (me or the other students).

Well as you would imagine, the solution was rushed and not thought through very well, so the results were less than stellar. The students who were already enjoying the class were now disinterested in the material and the material itself had several contradictions with what was being taught in other classrooms.

If they took a moment to review their solution, they would have discovered they were creating several unforeseen problems.

Final Thoughts

Problem solving is one of the greatest skills you can master. It allows you to focus on what matters and make a different in the lives of others. Next time you attend a meeting, see how many of these techniques you can utilize and let me know how it turns out.


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