The 3 Noes of Problem-Solving: No Fear

What makes a great problem-solver? Actually, it is not knowing everything about a subject.


One executive coach told me, “Let’s say I have a technical director as my client. I don’t need to know every detail of his production process. But I need to know how to ask the right questions so that he can have clarity. From there, he can arrive at the best possible decisions.”


Being a great problem-solver does not mean you have the answers, but knowing where to find the answers. For that, you would need the three noes. Here’s the first.


No fear. From my experience, the number one obstacle is emotional, not intellectual. For example, the problem-solver is afraid that his ideas will be shot down or that people will not cooperate.

No fear. From my experience, the number one obstacle is emotional, not intellectual


Another is the insidious psychology called group think. If you value the approval of your peers to the point of saying what they want to hear – there is no problem, the problem is not that serious, there is a problem but no solution – then the battle is lost before it even began. You will drag your heels, refuse to step on toes, or offer a “political” solution.


That’s why I wrote earlier that an organization must first have a safe environment. People should be able to talk about problems, openly, without fear of shame or blame. However, if this is not your workplace culture, you will need to marshal the courage to ask the tough questions, no matter where they lead to or whom they will offend. If you are still met with stiff resistance, then you may want to reconsider if you’d want to stay in that organization.


It helps to pretend that you are a spy. Deep in the bowels of your organization is a solution that is so secret that not even the CEO knows about it. Your job is to snoop around, rifle through documents, earn the confidence of your sources, and digest the “intel”. This role-play encourages you to set your fears aside. After all, is there such a thing as a risk-free spy mission? Then transmit your report to S.H.I.E.L.D…. um, I mean to your superiors.


Rise above your fears about problem-solving. Follow the data, even if they will lead to unpopular conclusions. Propose the solutions, even if they are bitter pills to swallow. Remember to focus on issues, not personalities. Your loyalty is to your employer, not to nay-sayers. Make the tough call. Bite the bullet.


Who knows? Your courage may be the very change the organization needs.


Note: This article is excerpted from my signature module Creating a Problem-Solving Culture, which seeks to empower both leaders and followers tap their reservoir of creativity and wisdom. For queries, please feel free to message me.

We’d love for you to leave a comment and share this post to encourage others. Thank you.

Photo by Sammie Vasquez, Unsplash

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