C&T Scene: How to lead innovation and positive change through problem-solving

Problems are nothing more than wake up calls for creativity. Gerhard Gschwantner

When a problem presents itself, do you see it as a setback or an opportunity?  As a C&T, you can be a leader of positive change in your role by demonstrating good problem-solving skills.

What is problem solving?
Problem-solving is the act of understanding a challenge and working toward finding and implementing an effective solution.

Staff with strong problem-solving skills are invaluable to an organization because they can work more effectively with colleagues and customers. Problem-solving is a soft skill that hiring managers look for in a candidate and is often listed as a requirement in today’s job postings.

So, how are your problem-solving skills?
Effective problem solvers:

  • Listen with the intent to understand another person’s point of view.
  • Are focused on finding the right solution rather than being right.
  • See problems as opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Have the tools to work under pressure.
  • Are open to exploring other options.

Why are problem-solving skills important for you to possess?

  • Possessing good problem-solving skills tells a hiring manager you may also possess other desirable traits like the ability to analyze a problem, to effectively communicate with customers and colleagues, and to think critically and creatively to achieve a solution.
  • Building up your problem-solving skills toolbox helps  you navigate conflict independently and with confidence.
  • Good problem-solving skills builds better rapport with colleagues.
    —Good problem solvers ask effective questions that create a safe space for team members to engage and collaborate towards a resolution. This technique can get to the root of a problem while still maintaining a good relationship with your colleagues.

We face problems daily, but solving problems at work takes technique and methodology to navigate them effectively. It may require you to work through the emotions of others to uncover their interests (their wants, needs, fears, concerns) on an issue. This method is called interest-based problem solving. It’s a way of uncovering what is important to a person around an issue in order to create solutions that meet the needs of all parties.

Watch this LinkedIn Learning video for an illustration of interest-based problem solving.

To learn more, consider reading “Getting to Yes” by Fisher and Ury.

Tips to improve your problem-solving skills
Start by changing your mindset:
Problems can have positive outcomes, if navigated well.

  • When a problem arises, it can…
    —create a sense of urgency to address an issue.
    —provide focus and resources for the issue to be resolved.
  • Successful problem-solving results in innovative solutions and increased communication because it allows team members to clarify an issue and collaborate on a solution.
    —Collaborating on a solution maximizes a team’s collective knowledge on the issue, which can result in a more long-term effective outcome everyone can support.  

Next time an issue presents itself, approach it with a positive mindset!

Hone your listening skills:
Ever hear customers repeat the same thing over and over again? It’s likely because they don’t feel heard. Engage actively in your conversations with the goal of understanding by:

  • Giving the speaker your full attention.  
  • Allowing the speaker to finish what he or she is saying before you speak.
  • Paraphrasing what you think you heard.
    —Paraphrasing is repeating back to the speaker what you think you heard in your own words (a summary) and asking if you got it right.
    —Paraphrasing is a powerful tool because it tells the speaker that their message was received as it was intended.
    —This technique can defuse angry customers or colleagues and allow them to move through a conversation to a resolution more quickly.

Reframe the issue to encourage collaboration:
Raise issues in the form of a question to encourage team engagement and foster innovative thinking.

  • Which statement would encourage you to participate in a resolution?
    —“We need to create a back-up system to cover heavy staff vacation times” or
    —“How can we create a seamless customer experience while accommodating staff vacations?”
  • The first statement locks you into one solution which may not be the best solution.  
  • The second statement is in the form of a question, which puts people in a problem-solving mode.  It encourages participation, good dialogue to better understand an issue, and generates innovative options to craft a solution.
  • Perhaps the issue isn’t about the need for a back-up plan but, at its core, is about understanding WHY there are heavy staff vacation periods.  One resolution could be to create a more transparent vacation request system to avoid heavy staff vacation periods.  

Reframing helps parties see an issue in a new light. It also assists in uncovering the right problem to solve. Watch this LinkedIn Learning segment to learn more about reframing.

Lead change in a positive way:
Next time a problem arises, start by listening actively to ensure that you understand other people’s perspectives (put yourself in their shoes).

  • Develop listening habits by practicing paraphrasing at home or on customer calls.
    —It may feel awkward at first, but soon it will become second nature.
  • When raising an issue at work, start by formulating it into a question to help encourage engagement, dialogue, and innovative thinking.
  • Volunteer on a process improvement project in your department to hone your problem-solving skills and observe the skills of other effective problem-solvers.

Practicing your problem-solving skills can help foster innovative thinking in your department and can help bring about change in a positive light.

Once you have mastered your problem-solving skills, think about your next learning challenge by using the self-evaluation and learning plan tools embedded in this Career Mobility Planning and Fulfillment guide.