Are you solving the right problem?

Blog | October 30, 2020

Before tackling a problem, make sure you’re solving the right one.

Recently, one of my clients shared that they make people uncomfortable with their directness. Another feels that no one listens to them.

“Do I need to use verbiage that is less direct?” the first asked. The second wondered if they should speak more loudly. 

Stated simply, each wanted to know, How can I get these people to listen to me, and receive what I’m saying?

Both were focused on trying to solve an apparent communications issue. 

They were taking action, but running into the same obstacles, over and over. Previous efforts had led nowhere. 

In fact, when multiple runs at the same problem result in no headway, it is a great red flag. It’s an indicator that you may be trying to solve the wrong problem.

And the thing is, taking action to solve the wrong problem never succeeds. 

“Tell me more about those situations,” I ask when leaders discuss how they are interpersonally stuck. Asking a few open ended questions (who, what, where, when, how) scratches beneath the surface to what was really going on. 

As each explore the factors creating their scenario, the leaders see past the immediate dilemma to the real elements at play. Each individual becomes aware that they are focused on how other people respond to them, rather than their own role in the situation.

“It’s not that people need to be speaking my language more,” the direct-talker realized. “It’s that maybe I need to understand other people’s language more.” 

In other words, how could they still speak directly, but in a way that the other person would be more open to hear? 

It was a shift in perspective, a shift in awareness, that ultimately pointed them toward the solution.

“Acknowledge and mirror back what you heard,” I offered, to pave the way toward a more constructive conversation. “And then add your own perspective.”

The second leader had a similar realization. “Maybe it would be helpful to foster a relationship with the person before I try to figure out why they aren’t hearing me.” 

A lightbulb turned on for them about needing to connect with the person, establish rapport, before communication can happen.

In both cases, the problem began somewhere else, before the “communication issue.” 

It was only through cultivating awareness that each leader was able to get to the real problem, and thereby resolve it at its source, for good. 

Awareness not only leads toward the solution, it IS part of the solution. Acknowledging patterns of behavior begins to unravel them.

The process of bringing patterns and circumstances from the unconscious to the conscious revealed and dissolved patterns that were getting in the way of each leader having the influence and impact they wanted.

This is exactly the kind of work that we do in the leadership program Next Level Impact.

We need to know the right problem to solve before we try to solve it. Awareness therefore has to be goal #1. (Which works well for us goal-oriented types.)

Cultivating awareness is a pillar of the MettaWorks method and the work we do with clients, in cohort or 1-on-1.

If you have been frustrated by similar obstacles, repeating the same approach only to get the same results—what’s that definition of insanity, again?—let’s talk. Click to schedule a complimentary discovery call with one of our coaches here.

Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant