The Skill to Stop

Leadership strategy to expose root cause of problems. Stop reacting and instead develop lasting solutions. Empower your team.


So today let’s talk a little bit about problem solving. If you’re running a high growth organization or you’re running a team inside of a high growth organization, one of the things that you come across all day long are problems. And if you’re like most, you’re pretty good at going into reaction mode and solving those problems. It’s something that we have all learned how to do really well.

We’ve trained ourselves and we’re also trained by technology, by email, by messaging tools to respond really quickly when we see something that’s wrong or that needs fixing or needs doing. We jump in and we do it, we check it off of the list. And that works for some of the problems that come across our desk as we go through our day but it doesn’t work for the really important ones.

We need a different skill for solving those type of problems and the skill that we need to solve those type of problems is to be able to stop. To be able to pause and actually ask ourselves and have our teams ask themselves what is the actual problem that we are trying to solve. What happens is we end up we go quickly over the actual problem and we solve easier or sort of variations of the problem. We don’t get to the root cause. So the first thing is, well, how do you know you’re not getting to the root cause of a problem? Well if that problem keeps surfacing over and over again it means you haven’t solved it at a deep enough level. So that’s the first clue to try what I’m about to suggest.

But let’s say you’ve now identified, you say, wait we keep bumping up against this problem we keep reacting, we keep jumping in, keep trying to fix it. But it it’s not working. It’s not really changing in a deep enough or in a sustained enough way. What do we do now?

Here’s what you do now, the next time this happens in a meeting or in a one-on-one or some kind of session that you’re running with your team, I want you to stop. And all you have to say is hey everybody I feel like we’re in solution mode here. Maybe the idea that we came up with is the right one but let’s check ourselves for a moment. I’m gonna start my watch for one minute. We’re gonna be just quiet together and I want everybody to reflect and think about what is the actual problem that we’re trying to solve right now. And i want you to write it down. You can do a draft email to yourself, you can write on a piece of paper, scratch pad, whatever you want, and give your team one minute. A figurative breath, if you will. Just one breath, 60 seconds to see what responses you get. And you might be quite actually amazed to see the variations of the problem and the thinking that emerges if you create that space.

So again, pause 60 seconds. Hey everybody, let’s just reflect and think about what is the actual problem that we’re trying to solve. Wait, be silent, then bring your team back together. Or if it’s a one-on-one conversation, you can do this with one other person. And then compare your responses and then check the solutions that you’ve already come up with against those responses and see if they’re the right ones. If they’re the important problems on your team, in your culture, in your organization. What you will find right away is that the solutions that you came up with, the first reactions, weren’t necessarily bad or foolish but they weren’t deep enough. So try this exercise and see if you can get to the root cause of a deeper problem that’s plaguing your team this week.

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