If you're a senior decision maker in your business you will be someone people look towards to solve problems. With this role comes the responsibility of leadership. You may be able to find answers when you are new to the role or your team but no one person has an endless supply of solutions for all situations.
I get to work with many successful leaders and there are a few common traits I've seen in others that enable them to sustain their effectiveness as problem solvers:
1st. Listening well creates opportunities. This is not ‘be quiet and never speak’; the term is a deliberate, active phrase. Listening well is a skill to be practiced. You must want to listen to those around you, you need to choose to focus on their communications. Thus, however clever you are, you cannot be fully present if you're doing something else as well as listening. Worse still if you are multitasking you can be seen by your colleagues as not valuing them.
2nd. Good questions matter. Closed questions are easy to ask (that is one’s that encourage brief responses from others like ‘yes’ or ‘no’). Asking smarter questions will enable deeper investigation of views, options and ideas. Learning how to ask open questions of your colleagues, and follow their replies, makes conversation flow and allows greater understanding to rise. Open questions allow the other person to talk for longer, choose how they explain something and share more of their knowledge. After all, if you don't allow all the relevant information to be aired, you cannot see all the possible connections and opportunities as clearly.
To help with great communication, I'd recommend the book Vital Conversations by Alex Grimsley. It is practical book that is easy to dip in / out of and take ideas to practice.
3rd. Network deliberately. By network I do not mean go to lots of business networking events and collect everyone’s cards. I mean target those with whom you want to spend time with or people you’d like to cultivate a professional relationship with. Look for people who have the skills, knowledge, experience or views that expand on yours. This is so you can create a healthy network of people you can go to inside and outside an organisation, below or above your paygrade, within your industry or far afield, similar to you or a different character. A variety of trusted sources will give you inspiration and / or vital information to solve problems from different perspectives and with access to broader knowledge.
Meeting these new people can take some time, while you are doing this you could try listening to great achievers through the plethora of podcasts or video interviews recorded online. As examples, I like the variety of speakers and issues that places such as Oxford University Union or Stanford Business School provide.
4th. Read regularly and widely. Our own thoughts are limited spaces. So, interesting people learn from others and as old fashioned as it can feel, reading is an act that stirs deep thinking in us. As John Coleman states: “Deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness."
I am a slow reader who has had to learn to engage the medium of print so I know it does not come naturally to us all. However, what I have found in conversation with leaders is the interesting ones, the inspiring ones, frequently reference print sources (both fiction and non-fiction). They develop ideas from the written words of others and apply them to their own workplace. So, what are your sources of print material? Are the sources varied, are they challenging, are they enjoyable? A wide source of reading gives you knowledge that as a leader that you can, in turn, develop into wisdom at work.
There are loads of good book sources but as an recent example here is a list of 60 great leadership books all written by women to get you started on so reading material
In my next post, I’ll share how to approach problem solving in the workplace on a daily basis. For now, you can try the four steps above the next time someone asks for help with a problem.
If you want to continue the conversation, learn more or share your views, my colleagues and I at Know+Do enjoy offering our ideas to advance successful leadership. You can contact me via @enablingsuccess or call on (UK) 0161 2804567 for some friendly inspiration.