Problem Solving Tools for Entrepreneurs
Business owners must overcome challenges and solve problems on a daily basis, and their team members expect them to know the answers. However, business owners don’t always have the answers, and they sometimes need to improvise.
Does this situation seem familiar to you? Do you often struggle with problem solving when challenges arise? If so, you’ll want to keep reading this article for some vital problem solving tools you can implement right away.
Break Down Your Problem into Manageable Chunks
Most people get overwhelmed by problems and challenges because the challenges can seem larger than life and impossible to tackle all at once.
Instead of feeling paralyzed by your problem, break it down into manageable chunks and then devise a strategy for addressing each chunk. Getting momentum to take on an enormous problem can burn tons of energy and end in frustration.
You’ll help your team solve the problem by giving them concrete steps to follow. A great problem solving tool for this is called the “eightfold path.” This isn’t the Buddhist path to enlightment: this is a book that outlines 8 steps to identify and solve problems. The eight steps are as follows:
- Define the problem
- Assemble evidence
- Construct the alternatives
- Select the criteria
- Project the outcomes
- Confront the trade-off
- Stop, focus, narrow, deepen, decide,
- Tell your story
Each of these steps will walk you through each part of any given problem and create miniature goals that can be accomplished without having the entire problem solved.
When you accomplish each small goal on the way to tackling the big problem, you’ll feel confident and capable. These tiny successes snowball, not only making progress toward your goal but giving you a constant feeling of success. Finally, the more you solve big problems, the more prepared you’ll be to handle big problems in the future.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
If you feel negative about your problem, then your negative energy will likely affect you and your team members, and it will stand as a roadblock on your path to success. Your mind, and your emotional state, can be one of the most powerful problem solving tools you have.
Instead, maintain a positive attitude about your problem and tell yourself and your team members that you’ll be able to achieve your goals. Sometimes the biggest roadblock to success is your own mindset. For business owners, problems are normal and very rarely insurmountable. You can’t tie your state of mind — and subsequently the state of mind of everyone in your company — to the idea of the “perfect day.” Problems will arise, things will break, and all systems tend toward chaos. Instead, stay focused on what works. On how, when something breaks, it can be replaced or rebuilt to be better.
Your attitude at the top, the problem-solving tools you use, set the tone for everyone adjacent and underneath you. Teach them by showing them how you stay positive in stressful situations and you’ll see this calm attitude being reflected back at you.
Positive thinking can literally increase your lifespan, increase your resistance to disease, and lower risk of heart attack. Is it surprising that doing things like eliminating negative self-talk and fostering positivity could have a huge impact on your work, as well?
Cultivate an attitude not only of positivity, but of a team-first philosophy. This isn’t about asking employees to give up their voice, or to work harder than they should: this is something you need to model first. Show them that the workplace shouldn’t be about who beats who, or why the person at the top deserves a bigger voice than everyone else. Don’t try to make one employee your star, don’t try to laud them over everyone else. Teach them the merits of passing the ball, of helping others succeed, and understanding that success isn’t a pie. Success doesn’t run out — it creates more success.
Promote Transparency and Open Communication
Sometimes problems will snowball out of control because no one wants to face them and tell the truth about what needs to happen.
Often, business owners will try to sweep problems under the rug, so they won’t ever have to deal with them. However, by promoting a culture of transparency and open communication at your business, you will help your team members feel comfortable about remaining honest about their challenges. According to Chris Savage, CEO and co-founder of Wistia, sometimes the best thing you can do to solve a problem is to be honest about what you don’t know:
“When you admit you don’t know the answers, when you share the biggest questions as they arise, you’re also encouraging people to do the same. You’re encouraging your whole team to ask bigger questions, and you’re bringing everyone along for the journey.”
The next time you face a major challenge at work, take a deep breath and remember that you and your team members will overcome it together. Even if you don’t have the appropriate resources on hand, you can always try to outsource solutions from experts outside of your company.
Or, in a worst-case scenario, you can solicit the expertise of a specialized business consultant, who can provide an outside perspective and help you see new solutions that you may not have imagined before.
Lastly, consider the open communication shouldn’t just be between staff — customer surveys can make excellent problem solving tools. Surveys can inform you of problems you may not even know you had, which gives you a jump-start on addressing them.