We all have the capacity to become a leader. Some will be quiet leaders and prefer not to be in front of the crowd but nurturing it from behind the scenes. Others will prefer to take on a more directive role and lead from the front. While still others will choose the course of leading from the middle through engagement and participation.
The way we lead often depends on the situation or circumstance, our personality traits and skill sets. The thing is all leaders are in the business of solving problems. Some of those problems can be solved in the moment, others not so much and they can wear us down. The way we deal with the bigger problems may cause us to procrastinate, lose energy and be confused as to what to do. What leaders have to watch is that the latter does not become a pattern.
Here are five different strategies to get over the hump during the course of solving a problem:
Take A Break: Let’s take the scenario where you find it difficult to have a calm discussion with someone. This may be a signal to politely break away from the conversation and get some needed air. Take up another task, go grab a coffee, or take a short walk outside. By leaving the situation, you are giving your brain space to process the argument and find a different approach. If you know that the person will not back down, simply, with respect for the other person, end the conversation and come back at it later.
In stepping back reflect on whether you were actively listening or just trying to put your point across to the other person. Check your bias about the situation. Determine if you have critically analyzed the problem. Think about how you can rephrase the problem so that each of you can agree on some aspects. Basically here, you try to find common ground, so that both you and the other person can discover mutual understanding.
Write Out The Problem: A great way to work through a serious problem is to clarify the issue on paper. Often, our brains have to sort out our feelings before finding the solution. Write down why the problem occurred, what you are trying to achieve, when and where it happened and so forth. Add to each heading the problem’s impact and what you can do about it. Jot it down like an outline or a mind map. Get it all out on paper first. Then, go back and read each entry. Does it make sense? Does it seem like a better approach to ending the problem?
What is happening here is that you are “having a relationship with your mind,” as Natalie Goldberg quoted. You are physically dumping your mind onto paper or digitally on a computer to clarify your thinking so that you can solve a problem. Period. That’s it.
Sleep On It: There are times when the problem cannot be solved in one day and you need to, as the old saying goes, “sleep on it.” Often your mind though continues to work on the problem or it keeps you from falling asleep. That’s not good. Studies show that keeping yourself up worrying about a problem is bad both for your physical health and your mental health. The National Institutes of Health estimates that up to 30 percent of the general population complain of sleep disruption. When you add that with an unresolved issue, and you then have to deal with not only resolving the matter in question but your own poor health to deal with.
One way to deal with worrying about it, is to put the issue in your too hard basket. That basket in your mind where you can tuck things away and not deal with them at the moment. You simply can’t deal with it now – it’s time for sleep. Sometimes a funny thing happens during your sleep and you wake up with an “ah, ah” moment. Make sure you have a pen and paper handy and write down your solution. Then you can go back to sleep. You see your mind, even though the issue is in your too hard basket and you are asleep, continues to work on the solution.
Talk To Someone: Here’s a clue. Leaders have feelings too and sometimes when a problem is not resolved their feelings can be overwhelming. This when, you as leader, need to turn to someone you can voice both your feelings and the problem. Call a coach, mentor, trusted colleague, or if it is more of a personal nature call a trusted friend, family member, or spouse. Choose someone who is close to you and has some understanding of your personality. It is hard to see our own behaviors when we are caught up in our emotions. When we have a “third-party” hear the problem, it gives us that moment to release any frustration, anger, sadness or whatever feelings are welling up in us and allows us to re-focus the issue more rationally.
Tackle it head on: This is when we are feeling strong enough emotionally to solve the problem. This occurs when we talk to someone who you feel has wronged you, or both of you can mutually solve the issue, or maybe it is just getting up every morning and facing your reality of paying bills and getting on with your business. When we force ourselves to resolve the challenge that is blocking our way forward, we are rewarded with feelings of satisfaction and less anxiety.
As Albert Einstein eloquently summed it up, “We can not solve our problems with same level of thinking that created them.”
We started this post by saying everyone has an innate ability to become a leader. By practicing and utilizing these tips you will show your leadership qualities by finding practical ways to solve both your own and help others solve problems. And, in the process your mental health will thank you, making everyone you meet feel better.
Thank you for reading and as always, take care, stay safe and become best version of yourself. Richard Fontanie