Developing a Problem Solving Mindset Guest Post by By Carthage

Whether you are trying to improve your productivity, improve the quality of your relationships or, resolve conflict; there is one critical factor which is often overlooked – a problem solving mindset. A problem solving mindset is essential in almost every area of life. Even with the best planning and preparation, things will go wrong for you. When this happens, your problem solving mindset will enable you to find the best path forward. You will be able to achieve your objectives quicker, help others to find solutions to their problems and, reduce conflict and stress. When you have an effective problem solving mindset, you become a valuable resource for friends, family and colleagues. Even in the most pressurised of situations, you will be seen as an ally rather than a threat.

Critical aspects of a problem solving mindset

The following skills are critical aspects of a problem solving mindset. As you start to implement these skills, and improve your ability with them, you will see large improvements in the results that you achieve.

1. Responsibility

Responsibility is both a skill and an attitude. When you encounter a problem in your life, you can either bury your head in the sand or, you can choose to do something proactive about the situation. Sadly, many choose the first option butavoidance is not an effective problem solving skill. When you choose to ignore a problem; it doesn’t go away. Instead, it builds up in the background until eventually; you are forced to deal with it.

With a problem solving mindset, you know that if you do not attempt to deal with the problem; you are creating a bigger problem which, when you are eventually forced to deal with it; it will be more difficult to resolve successfully. Therefore, when you see a problem, you are eager and willing to step up and attempt to resolve the situation.

2. Emotional intelligence

When things go wrong, it is easy to lose control of your emotions. You may become angry or distraught due to things not going as expected. It is important that you feel and experience your emotions but it is just as important that you do not choose your next action based on these emotions. Your emotions are so powerful that they can influence you to take decisions and actions that you would not otherwise consider. An essential component of an effective problem solving mindset is the ability to take ownership of your emotions and then, centre yourself and regain your composure, prior to choosing your response to the situation.

Dr. Steve Peter’s excellent book ‘The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence, and Happiness’, will give you an excellent overview of this.

3. Goal identification

You would be amazed at how many people I have met over the years who, when faced with a problem, rush straight in to trying to solve the problem before they have decided on the outcome they desire. When you are trying to solve a problem, you must first understand the true nature of the problem. Then, you must decide what solution you would like to achieve i.e. what is the end goal of the problem solving process. If you have no idea of the outcome you are trying to achieve; you will not solve the problem, you will merely change the problem.

Once you have developed a problem solving mindset, you will realise that you need to stand back and analyse a problem before you rush in to solve it. You will then enter the problem solving phase with a clear understanding of what is wrong, what it is costing you and, what you would like to achieve as a result of your efforts. With this approach, your chances of success are greatly elevated.

You can learn more about idenitifying and setting effective goals with theUltimate Guide to Goal Setting.

4. Descriptive and objective detail

One of the biggest obstacles to problem solving is the apportioning of blame. When you use the language of blame, others take offence and go on the defensive. They are then less likely to engage in any attempts to resolve the situation. To prevent this from happening, it is imperative that you be able to give an accurate, detailed account of what has occurred. If you are unsure of some of the details, say so. Do not try to fill the gap with assumptions as somebody is likely to offer a contrary view, thus leading to an unnecessary argument.

5. Active listening

When I first entered the working world, the term ‘active listening’ was really taking off. However, the teaching on this area seemed to focus on the need to let the other person know that you are listening; with verbal and physical gestures e.g. nodding your head. However, I have always found that there is a simpler way to practice active listening – listen.

When you genuinely listen to people, and take an interest in what they say, this communicates itself to the person speaking. You will naturally begin to do verbal and physical gestures. You will also find that you are inclined to ask questions and reflect. When you listen actively, the speaker feels valued and appreciated thus encouraging them to be more open, trustworthy and helpful as you try to resolve the problem.

6. Probe and reflect

So, active listening is not just listening. It is listening and, supporting that listening with questions and reflections, with the purpose of gathering as much information about the problem as possible. When you are listening, you may be confused about something that you have heard or, you may wish to learn a little more about something which was mentioned. This is the ideal time to ask a question or two, so that you may probe a little further.

When you develop a problem solving mindset, you realise that there is thinking that you understand and, ensuring that you understand. You don’t settle for thinking that you understand. Instead, you use reflection to tell the speaker your understanding of what they have told you. This is important because it provides them with the opportunity to correct any misunderstandings. This ensures that you can pursue a solution based on facts rather than miscommunications.

7. Desire to find the most appropriate solution

Too often, when trying to solve a problem, people jump at the first solution that comes into their head. In my experience, the first solution is rarely the best or most appropriate solution. It is best to take a period of time to generate as many potential solutions as possible. Invite all of the relevant stakeholders to offer their thoughts. Then, together, you can evaluate each potential solution to determine which one is most likely to bring about the conclusion that you are seeking.

Effective communication skills are an essential part of a problem solving mindset. You can learn more with How To Talk So Others Will Listen.

A problem solving mindset is crucial in every walk of life. When you have a problem solving mindset you understand the difference between actually solving the problem and, merely changing the nature of the problem. When you have a problem solving mindset you have a range of skills and attributes which enable you to find the most appropriate solution to implement, in order to bring about the desired change. As you implement these skills and gain confidence in your ability to use them, you will deal with any problems that may arise, quicker and more effectively. As a consequence, you will improve the quality of the results that you achieve in all areas of your life.


One thought on “Developing a Problem Solving Mindset Guest Post by By Carthage

  1. This skill is even more important these days, where the nursing profession has become more compartmentalized in it’s delivery of care to the patient. Our team members, who deserve the same respect, work parallel and/or in tandem with each other, but not together like I remember from the old days of team nursing. The overlap of skills between the RNs and CNAs needs to return, if the goal is to have a real team approach; whereby the opportunity to compliment others doing a good job occurs in the moment, when the message is best received.

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