Problem Solving Do’s & Don’ts

Problem solving is a key skill to develop if you want to be a good leader.  Solving problems will get you noticed and give you influence.  Of course solving problems can be both positive and negative.

In the book of Genesis the story of Abraham and Sarah gives us a good example of trying to solve a problem on your own.  Sarah could not have children and was getting older.  God had promised them they would have many offspring and a nation would grow from them.  Sarah was impatient, and who can blame her as she waited for over a decade and no child.  Sarah decided to solve the problem on her own and convinced her husband to sleep with her servant Hagar in order to have a child.  It worked and Hagar got pregnant and had a son.  However this caused a lot of conflict in the household between Sarah and Hagar and Sarah ended up kicking Hagar and her son out.

This story illustrates what happens when you try to work independently of God.  Here are some mistakes that Sarah and many others make in solving problems:

    • Believing that God is inattentive, absent or even against you.
    • Allowing your circumstance to determine your understanding of God’s character
    • Having a scarcity mindset instead of an abundance mindset
    • Becoming self-seeking or self-focused which leads to manipulation to get your way
    • Feeling inadequate and insecure, fears that cause you to react in unhealthy ways
    • Resent the success of others and angrily turn on them
    • Blame others for the situation or problem
    • Conclude that you need to control the situation or fix the situation instead of waiting on God

So what are some characteristics of a good problem solver?

  1. They anticipate problems – When you can see a problem coming and prevent it before it happens that is great leadership
  2. They accept the truth – You face reality and are honest with yourself and others
  3. They see the bigger picture – You must understand where you are trying to go and what the vision is before solving problems.  This is about perspective
  4. They handle one thing at a time – This is all about focus and not getting distracted from dealing with the issue at hand
  5. They don’t give up when they are down – Things will not always go according to plans and that is when persistence and patience come into play.

So when you face a problem, how do you react?  Do you ignore it and hope it goes away?  Do you feel paralyzed or powerless?  Solving problems well comes from evaluated experience, learning from failures and overcoming mistakes.  It also comes from wise counsel with other people and staying connected with God who gives wisdom when we ask.  Here are a few things you can do to improve your problem-solving skills:

  • Look for trouble – Don’t avoid problems, but pursue them.  This takes both persistence and patience and a willingness to face messy things and speak the truth in love.  It means talking openly about the issues no one else wants to face.  This takes courage and confidence, but must be done with humility.
  • Develop a method – Systems are the best way to solve problems.  Take time to discover the real issues.  Usually the things we notice are just surface issues or emotions.  You need to dig in order to find the root issues.  Find out what other people have done in similar situations.  Study the options that come out of your research and then prioritize solutions and try one.
  • Surround yourself with problem solvers – This means finding people that are good at areas you are weak.  Diverse thinking usually leads to more creative solutions.  Seeking wise counsel is always a good idea when trying to solve problems.  You should have people in your life that you can go to when you need help solving certain types of problems.  For example when you are having problems in your marriage you need to find someone that can mentor you in that area.  When you are having problem financially you find someone that can give you wise counsel in that area.

Take the initiative to solve problems.  Ask God to give you wisdom, patience, discernment and the right people to help you solve the problems you face.

The Secret to Great Leadership


What do the greatest leaders, husbands, wives, parents, friends, bosses, politicians or pastors have in common?  I believe they get the idea of serving people.  Servant leadership has been around for a very long time, it was the way Jesus led and many of our best leaders throughout history got it as well.  Robert Greenleaf said it well: “The true test of a servant leader is this: Do those around the servant leader become wiser, freer, more autonomous, healthier, and better able themselves to become servant leaders?”  Would the people you lead say that about you?  Would your spouse say that about you?

The main thing that keeps us from serving the people around us is our ego.   Selfishness is the destroyer of relationships and leaders.  One of the keys to becoming a better leader, husband, wife etc is to be humble.  Here are two great definitions for humility: Ken Blanchard – “People with humility don’t think less of themselves; they just think about themselves less.”  Fred Smith – “People with humility don’t deny their power; they just recognize that it passes through them, not from them.”

The other thing that keeps us from serving others is fear.  We fear losing control, being taken advantage of, not being heard, being rejected, failing, looking stupid and on and on.  To battle against these fears we need to practice unconditional love.  Think about the way you love your child.  You don’t only love them when they perform well, you love them no matter what.  That is called unconditional love, and that is what makes a leader great. In a business setting this means telling people the truth, being direct and yet gentle.  It means having the courage to challenge someone and do it it a gentle way.  It means you actually care about the people you lead and know them as a person.  It means you listen well and admit when you are wrong.

I came across this great acronym SERVE from the well known Chick-fil-A organization.  This is the guide they use in all their management and leadership training.  I think it is a great tool to use for our personal mission statements and for any business.  Here it is:

  • S stands for See the Future – Having a clear vision of where you want to go is crucial.  Whether that is for your business, your family, your marriage or your church.  Once a clear vision is established, goals and strategies can be developed to help get you there.
  • E stands for Engage and Develop People – In order to engage and develop the people you have influence with you need to know them.  This means understanding what their goals are and helping them get there.  It also means understanding what speaks to them, what they care about.  To engage someone you need to pay attention to them and listen.  This is where the idea of mentoring comes in, walking along side someone to help them get better.  It can also be coaching someone on how to improve in certain areas.
  • R stands for Reinvent Continuously – This means on a personal level are you learning, growing and getting better?  The greatest leaders I know are constantly reading, listening to someone speak, spending time with mentors and coaches to sharpen their wisdom and skills.  Everyone should have a personal development goal every year. This also applies to your organization or relationships.  Helping the people you lead grow and reinvent themselves helps your organization grow, the same can be said for a marriage.  It is also important to remain flexible through this process and understand that if something is not working, stop doing it and try something else.
  • V stands for Value Results and Relationships – Both are critical for long term success.  You can have it both ways if you are a servant leader.  When you have high expectations for results and relationships your influence goes up, because the people around you know that you care about them and yet expect the best from them.
  • E stands for Embody the Values – This is all about building trust.  Do your actions line up with the talk?  Do you live consistently with the values you profess?  Where there is trust there is strength and health.

Serving the people you influence is hard work, but the rewards are well worth it.  Be strong and courageous and lead by serving well.



Anytime you are feeling stuck it helps to ask the right questions. Maybe it’s someone else asking you some questions to draw out what is inside you. Maybe it’s asking yourself some questions to reflect on where you are and where you want to go.

For me asking questions has been very helpful in my own growth and also in helping other people grow. I often think about what my next step is in many different areas of my life. It may be my marriage and how I can make improvements in that important relationship. It may be my spiritual growth and relationship with God. I also ask questions about my financial situation and goals and what I can do to improve that area of my life. I also reflect often about my work and what I need to do better as a leader. So whatever area you want to focus on whether personal or work, these questions can help bring some clarity to what your next steps might be.

  1. What is happening in your world? Tell me about it?
  2. What is going well? What is not going well? (This question helps you zero in on the area most important to you right now)
  3. What is really important to you right now?
  4. What obstacles are you facing?
  5. What is success in this area and what is keeping you from success?
  6. What resources are out there that may be helpful to you?
  7. Who can you talk to that may be able to help you?
  8. What is working? What is not working?
  9. What are you learning?
  10. What is your next step? List 2-3 specific things that you can do over the next week to improve your current situation.

When you ask the right questions you can dig down to the root issues and start addressing those, instead of the surface stuff. So if you feel stuck, plateaued, or declining in certain areas of your life, ask your self some of these questions. Or have a trusted friend ask them.

Teams Make a Difference

A friend of mine just gave me a DVD he put together with video clips from sports movies. I love sports, so it really connected with me. It shows the coaches motivational speeches, the players playing in games and how the hard work and team work pay off by winning big games. I loved to watch the clips and felt myself being pulled into the moment.

The theme throughout these clips was teamwork, determination and heart. Often times on our own we can lose heart and determination. However with teamwork, determination and heart happen. Team mates will push each other and challenge one another. Coaches push the players to the limit and try to get all they can from each person. If each player is playing all out and doing their part the team can do things that no one thought possible.

These clips also were a great example of leadership. Certain players would step up and lead the team. Some by their example of hard work and dedication. Some by challenging and pushing other players. Leadership and teamwork go hand in hand. All teams need leaders, and sometimes the leaders change based on the circumstances.

We all are on teams. It may be the people you work with or the people you serve with at church. It might be your small group. It definitely is your family. It could be your classmates at your school or the committee you are serving on.

Whatever team you are on, you have a role to play. When you understand your role and you work hard at it, you are helping your team succeed. Sometimes you need to change roles in order to contribute in the best way. That takes humility and character to accept the role that best fits your talent. You also need to continually grow, by improving your skills, your leadership, your character.

How is your determination? How is your heart? Are you a team player? If you have a dream of a great marriage, a great workplace, a great church, a great school, a great neighborhood then you need great teamwork. Are you a great team mate or are you working on your own? Teamwork makes the dream work.

Monday Life Lessons

Here are some life lessons from Proverbs to start your week:

Proverbs 3:5-6: Depending on your own wisdom obstructs God’s better plans for your life.

Proverbs 4:23: Your hearts affections determine your life’s direction. God’s Word keeps your heart pure and safe.

Proverbs 5:1-23: Beware of pursuing a cheap alternative to the blessings a faithful marriage can bring. Evil always tempts us to settle for less than God’s best.

Proverbs13:7: Live by godly priorities. What seems worthless to fools is often valuable to the righteous; what fools pursue is often meaningless in God’s eyes.

Proverbs 16:16 – “How much better to get wisdom than gold!”


One of the things I do is coach and mentor people toward change. One way I try to do that is by asking good questions. Questions that get people thinking. Questions that challenge people or bring reality to a situation.

I just read this quote from a book I finished tonight called Becoming A Coaching Leader by Daniel Harkavy. “Powerful questioning enables you to go from head to heart. Habits change only when convictions change or are clarified. Most people will not change their habits simply because they have the necessary knowledge. They won’t make a change until they have hurt enough, heard enough, or had enough – all heart-level experiences.”

When you help people reach that point where they are ready for heart change, incredible things can happen. I can usually tell fairly early in a session with someone if they are really ready to make changes. Asking the right questions can help them take a step closer to a decision to make a real lasting change. Most people tend to hang onto bad habits, prolong bad decisions and ignor destructive behavior until the pain becomes too great to ignor..

This book has been an incredible tool for me to grow as a leader. I am trying to implement some of the things I have learned. I am working on a Life Plan, a Ministry/Business Vision and Plan and Priority Management. I want to be able to coach other people in doing these same things to become more effective in life and work.

Here are a few questions for you to think about:

  • What are the top three regrets you have today with regard to your personal and professional life?
  • If you could go back to school to learn a new skill or trade, what would it be?
  • What would you say are the top two or three greatest limiting factors in your career or your life?
  • What is the one thing you would most like to see improve in the year ahead?
  • Rate your personal life on a scale of one to ten
  • Rate your physical life on a scale of one to ten.
  • Rate you spiritual life on a scale of one to ten.

Keep Growing and changing. Don’t wait for the pain to intensify before you start to make changes in your life, your habts and your behaviors. Start with little things and build on that. If you need help making those changes, find a coach or a mentor to help you.

Do you need a coach?

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the word Coach. I met with an Executive Coach to talk about my personal and professional growth; I have been meeting with a nutrition coach twice a week to stay accountable on my weight loss goals (I have lost over 8 pounds in two weeks); I am currently coaching about 18 small groups here at NewPointe Community Church. I also coach around 15 volunteer teams.

So what is up with coaching and why is it important in our lives? I have come to realize that I need other people to hold me accountable, encourage me, motivate me and push me to my full potential. On my own I tend to get off track and out of focus. I can easily lose track of the vision for my life, marriage, ministry, health and work. I can do OK and get by, but I can get easily distracted. If you have set up some goals for your life, I highly recommend finding a coach to help you achieve those goals. That can be a little different for everyone. For some people that may mean going out and hiring someone like a fitness trainer or executive coach. Or it may mean finding an accountability partner that will ask you tough questions on how you are doing. Others may need to find more of a mentor to learn from and give them advice.

When I think about a good coach, there are some qualities that stand out. You may think about sports when I say coach, but this applies to our everyday lives as well. So here are some thoughts on a good coach:

A good coach chooses players well. If you are leading people in any way, you are coaching them. A good coach sees the potential in people and can draw out that potential.

A good coach constantly communicates the game plan. They tell people what they expect of them. Give them an opportunity to perform, and be a part of the plan. They let them know how they are getting along, so they can learn and improve and then rewards them for doing a good job.

A good coach takes the time to huddle. Meeting with people on a regular basis is vital in any coaching relationship. I meet with my nutrition coach two times a week. It keeps my goals in front of me and keeps me accountable to do the hard work. Regular huddles improves focus, give you an opportunity to listen, and to make changes as needed.

A good coach knows what his players prefer. People value appreciation for a job well done. People also like the feeling that they are “in” on things. They also want to know that someone cares about them.

A good coach excels in problem solving. I look to my coaches to help me solve problems. I also try to help solve problems for the people I coach. Often times the people I meet with come up with their own solution, but they just needed someone to talk to and think through the problem.

A good coach provides the support needed for success. What I mean by that is you get everyone involved, give plenty of affirmation, simplify as much as possible and create momentum. Often this is done by sharing stories of success.

A good coach commands the respect of the players. The key here is trustworthiness. Building a trust relationship is vital. They let people know they care about them.

A good coach does not treat everyone the same. Sometimes a coach has to be firm and tough. Other times you need to be patient and kind. People all respond to different kinds of motivation and attention. They know their people well enough to understand how to motivate and encourage them.

A good coach continues to win. Good coaches focus on the basics and keep things simple. They focus on skills that will help the team be successful. To win you need to be willing to change and adapt and constantly recast the vision to your team.

Finally a good coach understands the levels of the players. Some players need direction, some need coaching, some need support and other can be delegated to. Knowing the team is vital.

Maybe you need to go find a coach like I did. Maybe you need to be a coach like I am. Maybe you need help in your marriage, your work, your ministry, your health, your relationships. Finding a good coach can really jump start you on your way to improving quickly. Maybe you need to be a coach to others, by sharing your wisdom and knowledge. In any case, coaching is important. If you want to go to the next level you need someone to coach you. Even Tiger Woods has a coach that he meets with on a regular basis. If Tiger needs to be coached then I need to be coached as well.