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Sharpening Your Problem Solving Skills

Challenges and changes are a part of everyday life – both personally and professionally. Instead of watching them mount or negatively affect the bottom line, the best way to overcome them is to acknowledge the challenge at hand, develop a strategy to solve it and ensure it is not repeated. Although this may seem to be easier said than done, with a thoughtful approach to planning, a problem can be solved with minimal impact. The most effective leaders and problem solvers have developed strategies that they put into practice when overcoming every day challenges and organizational obstacles. The following are some of the basic steps for sound problem solving:

Assess how the challenge or obstacle affects the big picture and key stakeholders.  It is much easier to see a problem from the perspective of how it affects you individually, but quite another to view how it effects the entire group or organization. This will be critical when determining the solution. 

Take stock of all viewpoints and eliminate biases. When soliciting suggestions on how to solve a problem, be sure that everyone’s voice is heard and respected. Preconceived notions or perceptions can cloud or dismiss what could actually be a very good idea.

Reach out to others for ideas. Many times when faced with a tough problem, people tend to solicit feedback and ideas from their inner circle alone. This could be unproductive in the workplace as many problems are organizational and would benefit from the ideas of the collective group – especially when decision making affects everyone.

Be willing to make adjustments as needed. Solving a problem is a process and should always include evaluating whether the solution is working or not.  Oftentimes there are a number of issues or nuances that were not first considered. Effective problem solving saves room for further adjustments.


Asking your mentor to guide you through the problem solving process can be a tremendous opportunity for personal and professional development growth. Your mentor can create a safe environment for you to talk through a challenge. The following are a few guidelines to assist you in formulating solutions to some of the challenges you have at hand: