When I’m talking to people about solving problems with whatever project they’re working on, one of the things that always jumps out at me is how very infrequently people actually go deeper into trying to discover the root cause of their issue.
I usually chalk it up to an issue of perspective. When you’re that close to something, it can be quite difficult to see things clearly and you end up unable to see the forest from the trees. Interestingly, the sharpest people that I’ve ever come across online are all able to get past it – I suppose that leads in part to their success.
It dawned on me while I was putting together this month’s Casual Marketer Monthly Newsletter because I was talking about being brutal in your own self-assessments, that you need to go beyond the superficiality and see what was actually causing the problem.
The realization was that the vast majority of us, myself included, don’t like to look deep inside ourselves and try to discover what’s holding us back. The truth is, we already know and we don’t want to admit it to ourselves. It would force us to revisit the entire ideal we have of who we are.
That’s pretty gruesome, so let’s get past that. I’m here to help you be successful, not coax you into examining your very soul.
So, how do we simplify that problem without getting into some crazy French existentialism?
Problem Solving Framework
The first thing you have to do is sharpen your focus. I talk to a lot of people who when things aren’t going well they run around like a blue arsed fly trying to juggle all the balls at the same time. They actually start solving problems they don’t have and creating whole new ones at the same time.
Our natural inclination when things aren’t going well is to “just do something” to try and fix it. If you don’t know exactly what’s going wrong, then you start guessing and making random changes based on hunches.
Don’t do that. In fact, do the opposite, slow down. Step through the problem and try and ascertain the root cause. Then think about what a solution might look like and how you’d effect that change.
That leads to the next point, just make one change at a time. If you have a software background at all, you no doubt appreciate the value of a good change control process. Making one change at a time allows you to test to see if something is working and if it doesn’t help, you can back the change out. I highly recommend that you write down your changes and make some notes.
“Oh but Sean, that’s fine for software, but my problem isn’t technical.”
Doesn’t matter. Same process applies. When you make multiple changes at the same time you can’t measure the impact or understand the outcomes. Think like an engineer – reproducible end results based on following a tested and understood process.
The final thing you can do is seek assistance. Some people see it as weakness when they have to ask for help, especially if it’s in their business. The truth is, you just have to build a bridge and get over it. You’re in the success business and if things are working the way they should, you need to get past your “feelz” and take this as an opportunity to learn something.
Learning How To Solve Problems
Yes, I said learn something. Part of asking for help is assist you in resolving whatever issue you’re having, but the other part is for you to observe how this person goes about resolving the problem. Pay attention to their process, how do they troubleshoot, what methodologies do they use, do they have a different frame of reference.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a technical problem or a soft skills issue, for you, the desired outcomes are the same – get your problem solved and learn how the person goes about solving the problem.
One thing I do with my coaching students intentionally is when we’re working on something, I walk them through the process I’m going through and explain it to them in detail. For example, if I’m helping a student launch their product, they’re not paying me to help them write a sales page or build out a funnel, they are paying to learn how to better position their product to the appropriate marketplace to maximize their return on investment and that’s a skill they can use repeatedly if I teach them my thought process.
It’s the old adage, “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he gets a reality TV show on the Discovery Channel.” I might have that wrong, but the sentiment is there.
We started off pretty dark there. I found myself gravitating towards a Jean-Paul Sartre book looking for solace. Thankfully I was able to pull it back into something that’s more actionable and helpful. I feel better about that, I don’t know about you.
If you want to keep feeling good, then I suggest you take up the offer to join the Casual Marketer Monthly Newsletter. The April issue is going to print tomorrow and will be shipped out early next week, so click the link below and sign up now to make sure you don’t miss out.