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.

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