January 5, 2015

Ditch the Problem-Solving Approach


It’s a familiar scenario. Your client, your colleague, your boss, your spouse, your kid — comes to you with a perceived problem. An issue keeps coming up that needs resolution, something’s troubling them, they can’t seem to break a problematic pattern. What do you do?

ocLinkedin-problemIf you’re like most well-intentioned, time-stressed people, you’ll try to fix their problem, correct their mistake and undo their wrong-doing. You might offer advice, provide an out from the situation, take over or tell them what needs to be done. But when you take any of these approaches, what you’re actually doing is perpetuating the problem-centered mindset, reacting instead of responding and setting up a dependency structure, where you’re the temporary hero and they’re the permanent incompetent. So much for good intentions and productive outcomes.

Your thoughts, your words and your actions need to change in order to shift the doomed ‘fix it’ paradigm into a higher ’empower them’ gear. Here are five approaches to empowering instead of fixing:

  1. Guide others to create and not react by helping them focus on what they want instead of what they want to do away with.
  2. Put the monkey on their back, not yours. Serve as a sounding board and help them arrive at their own conclusions, form their own perspectives and see different solutions to the situation.
  3. Champion them by providing encouraging words, reminding them of past successes, and sincerely believing that they’re capable.
  4. Share your method for arriving at decisions, but don’t decide for them.
  5. Steer the conversation to focus on desirable outcomes and the actions they need to take to achieve them.


Lee Broekman is a communication coach and trainer. Her company Organic Communication, brings interactive, never boring, always edifying keynote presentations, retreats, seminars & CLEs to your firm or organization.