Successful leaders and managers need to spend a lot of time solving problems.
Anyone who has held a leadership or management job for even a short time understands just how much of each day is spent doing this. Some of the problems are self-generated while others are foisted upon us; they can be large or small, and while some are intensely urgent, others are simply not. While some problems have a ‘root cause’, others may have none.
Problems come in all shapes and sizes and it is common for us to settle into habitual methods and strategies for dealing with them. We do this for a variety of reasons: fear, comfort, familiarity, strengths, experience and because we simply have not developed a proper approach. No matter what the reason, when the problem is poorly framed from the start, it becomes much harder to make things better. And when we misunderstand what constitutes a good ‘solution’, we become stuck in patterns of thinking that don’t work.
It’s like trying to convince someone of your point and, when they don’t agree, raising your voice again and again to no effect. Critical thinking skills can help us rethink our approaches to solving problems and look in new places for solutions. Sometimes, we are like a tennis player applying the strategy of a quarterback or a skier. Just as each game requires its own approach, different kinds of problems have unique methods that work for them.
Indeed, it seems enormously logical to develop solutions to current problems using our past experience, but this approach usually fails in an increasingly unpredictable and dynamic business environment. The challenge is to both unlearn and to gain more control over how we solve problems in all contexts.
Over the course of Critical Thinking and Strategic Problem-Solving Skills for Leaders, you will be introduced to a language of problem solving that quickly and effectively categorizes issues into three main types based on their complexity and uncertainty: these are decisions, problems and dilemmas. For each of the levels, there are assumptions, conditions, outcomes and methods which work best. In our session, I will teach you how to recognize the type of challenge you are facing, and I will introduce you to methods best suited for handling each of them.
Stephen Friedman is an executive coach, career coach, facilitator and trainer, working in the areas of management interpersonal skills, group development, strategic thinking skills and HR for numerous organizations and individuals. He is a faculty member in the Schulich School of Business and a facilitator in the Schulich Executive Education Centre.
Critical Thinking and Strategic Problem-Solving Skills for Leaders (starting April 19, 2021) is a two-day program delivered in the virtual classroom. For more information and to register, visit the program web page.