Problem-solving and change management are very close to one another. I see it in the pattern of behavior where leaders resist change and avoid problem-solving.
Why is this?
It is actually quite easy to pinpoint. Here are two of the reasons.
First, they have never learned how to solve problems.
Second, they correctly assume that solutions imply change.
I recently published a short book called Solving Problems: A Guide To Being A Person of Impact. Yes, it is simply a book on problem-solving. It helps people learn a simple process for solving problems that can be applied in almost any situation. It is based upon my Circle of Impact model of leadership.
When people solve their own problems, they also gain skills in communication, collaboration, and innovation. All are leadership skills that everyone needs to acquire regardless of the position that they have in the organization. What, then, is the impact of this approach to leadership. In simple terms, it moves an organization from being leadership starved to being leader-rich. More definitively, it decentralizes the capacity of an organization to solve its problems. I saw this effect in an organization that I served many years ago. Small problems flowed up through the hierarchy to the vice-president’s desk. By then a problem had turned into an issue between the company and the union. When the company implemented a program to train and support all their employees in practicing these leadership skills, the trust level in the company grew, ultimately gaining the awareness of Forbes magazine in their annual list of most trustworthy companies. This is the potential that results from elevating the leadership capacity of people.
The stresses and strains of operating a business have grown considerably over the past twenty years. One of the outcomes is the changing role of leadership. Throughout history, a leader was thought of as a person of influence. What is influence? Really. What is it? How do you measure it? Is this a perspective that will serve us well as a global community with an uncertain future?
Nothing is inevitable, except change. Nothing happens in a uniform or complete manner. Every change creates the conditions for its opposite. This is where opportunities abound.
Entrepreneurs understand this and then when they reach a point of establishment, promptly forget about it. Entrepreneurs want to decentralize power in order to create new opportunities. Then they want to centralize power believing that absolute control produces efficiencies that secure the future of the business. Is entrepreneurial ‘creative destruction’ only a starting point? Or, can a business instill the practice of entrepreneurial opportunity-seeking throughout the organization? I believe that it can.
This is one facet of the tension between centralization and decentralization in society. It has grown in intensity as technologies emerged that support personal endeavors and the control of people through surveillance technologies. The context of this global dynamic I call the Two Global Forces. This post consists of selections from my book, Circle of Impact: Taking Personal Initiative to Ignite Change, on this phenomenon in our world today. I have more to say about this at the end.
I came to realize through working with leaders and their organizations that their problems were not just organizational. Within their teams and workforce, there were philosophical differences that made creating a culture of trust more difficult. I found that when the ideas that we identify as values were treated as secondary or optional aspects of the business, it also contributed to difficulties in how people worked together. Trust in relationships is a product of clarity of not just the why of the company, but the how. It doesn’t take long talking with people from any business to discover if they are clear about the company’s values and goals. When that clarity is missing, there is reticence on the part of employees to give their best each day.
I was at a transition point in my life. I was asking questions that you may have asked yourself at some point in your life. My transition point had me looking at decisions about where I would live, how I would financially support myself, and what difference I would make with the rest of my life. These decisions followed a time of loss where my consulting practice slowly dried up, and then, after moving from being a board member into the executive director role, I was terminated from the nonprofit organization that I led. During this time, my marriage of thirty years ended.
Sitting in my apartment one night, the question of what my life was to be in the future became crystal clear to me. I saw myself starting over. I realized that my life was not done, there was much to do, and that my best, most important work was yet to be. So that evening, I decided that for me to start my life over, I had to move.