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.


Seven Qualities That Attract People To A Leader

I’ve been involved in leading people over the last 20 years.  In business, in a local Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations and in the church as a volunteer leader and as a staff member.  No matter where I was serving, the people I was trying to lead were asking, “why should I follow you?”  Most people buy into the leader before the cause or vision.  Even if they are bought into the vision, they will be either more or less committed because of the leader.  I know that many times in my leadership I did not understand that and blindly charged forward without understanding the importance of building the confidence and trust of those following.

Here are seven qualities that I believe are vital for leaders to build a tribe and make a difference:

  1. Calling or Passion – A leader that is passionate about what he is doing and feels called to it will attract people.  Being passionate about something means you are willing to sacrifice for something.  My leader Dwight Mason has said that “if you want people to bleed for something, you need to hemorrhage.”  People can tell very quickly if you feel called to what you are doing or if it’s just a job.
  2. Insight & Wisdom – Leaders that can see the real issues and know the real problems are respected.  Insight is developed over time and through evaluated experience.  Leaders that understand people and why they do what they do can make better decisions and motivate people more effectively.  It takes insight to know how to connect with different types of people.  Knowing when to listen and when to talk, when to push and when to back off comes from insight and wisdom and from failing and learning from it.
  3. Character – It takes character to win and maintain trust.  Doing the right thing even when it hurts and is difficult builds respect.  Character is often exposed in difficult times and character is developed in those quiet moments when no one will know and you still do it right and make it right.  Without character leaders eventually fall.  No one is perfect, yet the best leaders know that people are watching them and approach their leadership as a way to positively influence the people around them.
  4. Charisma – People like leaders that make them feel good about themselves.  People will follow you if they like you.  Having an approachable demeanor and friendly personality are important.  When you walk in the room do you bring energy to that room and do people want to be around you?  Sometimes leaders have to work at this if it does not come naturally.
  5. Competence – You need to know what you are doing and talking about.  People can tell quickly if you are just talking and dancing around the issues.  Leaders that know what they are doing and that surround themselves with people even smarter than they are excel in leadership.  The best leaders are constantly growing and learning and getting better at what they do.
  6. Communication Skills – You don’t need to be a highly polished speaker, but you do need to be able to effectively communicate the vision and values that you are passionate about.  It is also important to be able to communicate in a variety of ways.  Both verbal and non-verbal communication is important.  The way in which you communicate is important, knowing when to call someone and when to email or when to go see them in person.  Also the ability to communicate to a large group, small group or one-on-one is vital for great leaders.
  7. Courage – Courage is making the tough calls despite the fear.  When people know that you are willing to take risks and lead in a bold courageous way they will follow you.  It takes courage to lead and move ahead even when not many are choosing to follow.  Knowing when to take a stand and fight a battle is an important attribute of a leader.  It also takes great courage to humble yourself and serve other people and to be transparent with the people you lead.

Lead On!

Dealing With Your Past


As I have interacted with people and worked at understanding them it has become more clear to me that the past is an important part of the actions of today and how people are preparing for the future.  I have heard many people say that you need to forget the past and move on.  That is a dangerous way to approach life.  Whether you like it or not, your past affects your decisions and actions today, and these, in turn, affect the future.  If you do not learn from your past mistakes and hurts, you will most likely repeat them.  There are also lies that you have believed and that have shaped you and what you believe.  Those lies steal your joy and cause you to be afraid.

The junk from your past causes you to react to conflict or difficulties in a certain way.  Everyone has buttons, that when pushed will take them back to those historical moments that feel similar.  When stirred up those lies and fears cause you to react or respond in unhealthy ways.  This behavior is often learned from your parents and other influential people in your life.  Many of the unhealthy responses like withdrawing, defending, attacking, and deflection were ways you could protect yourself when you were little.  Now that you have grown up you are still responding in those ways and it leads to death not life.

So what can you do about the junk from the past, the fears that lurk inside you and pop out when touched?  Major changes begin on the inside where these fears, hurts and hangups live.  Change starts as God works on your attitudes, beliefs, and desires.  When your attitudes, beliefs and desires start to change and line up with what is true, your outward behavior changes and the transformation takes shape.  Philippians 2:13 says “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  This is telling you that God helps you to want to obey him and then gives you the power to do what he wants.  The secret to a changed life is to submit to God and allow him to do the inside work needed to transform the person you are.

So to unload the junk from your past means taking the first step of being reconciled to God.  If you have not taken that step, God will not start the transformation process.  God is at work on every person alive, drawing you to himself, but he never forces the issue, he just keeps it in front of you.  Once you take the step of believing that Jesus Christ was God and man, that he lived a perfect life, that he took all your sin on himself and died for you, that he overcame death and sin by coming back to life in three days and that he is alive today, then you can ask for forgiveness of your sins and be reconciled with God.  Doing that brings the gift of living forever with God in heaven.  It also begins the process of spiritual maturity.

If you have done that and are continuing to live with fears that are controlling your behavior, then start asking God to change you on the inside.  He will continue the process of change on the inside if you ask him. The way in which to do that is to take in God’s word on a regular basis and communicate with God on a regular basis.  Remove the distractions around you and listen to God, then ask for courage to follow through on what he is telling you to do.  One of the best exercises to help get that started is the Steps to Freedom in Christ by Neil Anderson.  Going through those steps is like cleaning up your house.  It brings your focus on God and shines a light on your past and your inside attitudes, beliefs and desires.  Remember that you don’t clean up your house just one time, it is an ongoing discipline.  The good news is that God is doing most of the cleaning when you let him inside and ask for help.

Once you have dealt with the past in the right way you can move on and never have to bring it up again.  These are the words that Moses used to encourage Joshua “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  That is your message today.

Are You As Good As A Geek?


The Geek Squad is a team of people or geeks that have a high tech IQ.  They work for Best Buy and can fix nearly any electronic device.  I have not had the pleasure of working with one of the geeks, but I have heard good things.  They wear uniforms and drive VW Bugs to the clients homes or businesses.  I came across their Geek Squad Promises and just had to share it.

  • I will never violate the trust of my clients or disrespect their property.
  • I will never say, ‘I don’t know’. Instead, say ‘I’ll find out’.
  • I will always understand that my clients’ time is more valuable than my own.
  • I will assume every problem is my fault, unless proven otherwise.
  • I will consider my job done only when my client is completely overwhelmed with joy.  And instead of assuming they are happy, I’ll ask them.
  • I will keep every promise I make, including this one.

Those are some incredible promises and if followed lead to great customer service and lasting good impressions.  No matter where you work, this kind of a mindset will make you a more valuable team player.  You can even apply this one to your marriage.  So go out and be a Geek!