Chess board for teaching problem-solving

Here is a great article by Heather Redding on how to improve the the problem-solving capacity of your team. She shares some great insights into this process. ~ Deseri Garcia



If you want your business to succeed, you need to lead from the front.

But leading from the front doesn’t mean doing everything.

It means setting an example and setting the pace for how your employees should respond to a variety of different situations.

Almost a century ago, Henry Ford invented the assembly line – a system that created a more efficient manufacturing methodology by assigning simple tasks to individual people.

But that doesn’t mean that your staff are all expendable cogs capable of just one goal.

Instilling your employees with problem-solving skills can create a versatile and more smoothly running work environment, and we’re here to show you how you can achieve that level of synchronicity.


Evaluate Your Existing Management Techniques

The unfortunate consequence of our modern management techniques means that employees often don’t have the skills to take initiative with a problem, and they often feel like they aren’t given the leverage to do so.

It’s easy to fall into a system of micromanagement, and many managers and owners aren’t even aware of how oppressive they are with their management styles.

Training your employees to be more self-sufficient is important, but we suggest you start by identifying any weaknesses in your own style.

Employees who are over-managed are going to feel less initiative to take the lead when they see a problem and will instead rely on the chain of command to resolve it.

Oftentimes, that will lead to inefficiencies.

That’s why it’s important to recognize when your management style may be too constricted.

Whether it’s an issue of micromanagement from an owner level or unnecessarily strict division of labor, making sure that your staff has the leverage to work with some degree of agency is important.


Be Clear and Concise

One of the biggest issues with problem-solving is creating too narrow a channel for your employees, but encouraging a system that’s too broad can be just as problematic.

After all, you don’t want your staff members to spend hours researching a problem that they don’t have a solution to when they could instead just call in the help of a more qualified department.

That’s why it’s important to create more structured parameters for each of your teams.

Problem-solving doesn’t always mean solving an issue yourself. It can instead mean recommending the issue to the person best equipped to resolve it.

If everyone knows the specializations of different departments, it will make them more confident in directing issues outside of their purview to people who can address it in a shorter time.

And that goes both ways.


Be Honest in Your Approach

What you say and what you do should be properly aligned.

Problem-solving means making mistakes, and if you want staff that’s willing to get creative, that means recognizing that sometimes they’re going to stumble and fail.

Encouraging creative approaches to problem-solving is a great thing, but you have to back that up with trust in your employees.

A creative approach to an issue can ultimately lead to failure, even if it’s the best way to find a new methodology.

Don’t punish your employees for being creative and failing. Instead, encourage them to not just be creative but to learn from their failures and apply it to future issues.


Accept Feedback

Most businesses are Byzantine affairs.

Multiple departments are sorting through multiple issues, and it can be hard to understand the different struggles that result in different results if you aren’t paying close enough attention.

Employees who know how to resolve a computer management issue might reach out to IT anyways because they believe that’s the protocol, or they might be worried about being held accountable for any mistakes they might make.

That’s why it’s important to regularly check in with your staff in every department.

Take the time to pull your employees aside regularly and address the problems they faced and how they resolved them.

In some cases, you’ll have staff members who addressed similar issues in different ways and be able to objectively determine which strategy worked better.

In other situations, you won’t come to conclusive results.

In either case, it’s important to not assign winners and losers.

The act of experimentation benefits your company, and multiple acts of experimentation can help you zero in on the best approach.

Trial and error is often the only way to find the best way.

Don’t be afraid to determine new company policies on what works best, but don’t punish employees for taking a bold approach that doesn’t pay off.


Proximity is Not Equal to Value

If you’re working in an office environment, it can be easy to prioritize the people on-site, but it’s important to not neglect remote employees.

Hiring remote team members can give you access to people who have honed their technical skills due to the virtual nature of their work.

Growing trends in remote work enrich teams with more tech-savvy individuals who can pass their troubleshooting knowledge onto others and spread the problem-solving mindset through your organization.

Identify those remote employees who work best autonomous of other people, spot their expertise and be sure to use them when you need some specialized skills.

Remote employees can be easy to overlook, but the businesses of today are increasingly agile and you don’t necessarily need someone on-site to solve a common technical problem.


Simplicity is Key

It can be incredibly easy to make a problem more complicated than it needs to be, and that’s why it’s critical to make sure that your staff is guided by the principle of boiling an issue down to its basic concepts.

If there’s a major problem that a team is facing, be sure to sit everyone down. Find a manager who understands the issue and break it down into its most basic component parts, and then let your team contribute solutions until you find the one that’s the best fit.

Even if one employee is guiding the issue, chances are good that other staff members will have the experience and knowledge to hone the idea.

It’s important to recognize that perfect is the enemy of good here.

Finding a solution that resolves every issue may not be possible. What’s more important is finding the best solution available to you.



Your team will function better without your iron grip.

Identify the problem solvers you already have in your company, whether they’re in the office or working remotely, and introduce some guidelines on how to problem-solve.

Give time to everyone in the company to get used to problem-solving and help them along the way, and slowly remove your management from the equation.

Your operations will be more streamlined and your employees empowered and more efficient.



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Heather Redding is a part-time assistant manager, solopreneur and writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is also an avid reader and a tech enthusiast. When Heather is not working or writing, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.