© 2015 PDI Solutions (Trading as Kathleen J Miles)

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Finding Your Solutions Focus


There are people who look at a half-filled glass and think, “excellent there is still half a glass left” and there are those who look at it and think “it’s half gone”.

Much like this, there are people who are solution focused thinkers who are optimistic and focused on solving the problem, and those that are problem focused thinkers who get bogged down in the negatives and the details of the problem.

Solution Focused Thinking VS Problem Focused Thinking

Undoubtedly, there are problems and obstacles that everyone faces at various times in their life.

For some, hitting an obstacle or coming up against a challenge is enough to halt their progress. They may spend a large amount of time dwelling on the problem/challenge in front of them wondering why this happened to them. By focusing on the problem this can mean that the person may end up procrastinating, losing energy and enthusiasm for the task or they may give up on the task entirely.

If you find yourself in this situation often, then you are more than likely problem focused. You tend to focus so much time, energy and emotion on the problem in front of you that it distracts you from what you were trying to achieve in the first place.

On the other hand, a person with solution focused thinking will find a way for things to work in any situation. They are focused on the future and what they want to achieve.

Rather than spending all their time dwelling on the problem, over-analysing it, or letting it distract them, an individual with solution focused thinking will know that nothing good ever comes easy. They treat any obstacles that come up as a challenge to overcome and spend the time necessary to work through available solutions in order to get their goal back on track.

Why is Solution Focused Leadership Important?

In order for a business to perform and excel, it needs to be able to achieve the strategic goals that have been set. To help the business to achieve these goals, solution focused leaders are required to drive success.

It is very easy for a team to get bogged down by problem focused thinking. Therefore, it is imperative that a leader maintains a solution focused approach and encourages their team members to do the same.

Solution focused leaders are hopeful, optimistic and have a positive outlook when it comes to changes in the workplace. They help team members wade through the negativity associated with problem focused thinking and energise and motivate the team to actively attack problems and obstacles with everything they have, until they are solved.

Example in Action

Your team has just been set some pretty big objectives for the coming year. As well as achieving these objectives, the team will also need to take on more responsibility due to a structural change in the organisation.

A couple of the team members have been pretty vocal about their dislike of these structural changes and have openly voiced their opinion that any additional workload will be impossible as they already work more hours in a week than they are getting paid for. They feel like they are unappreciated and are not being rewarded for it even though they will be taking on more work. The more they think about it and talk about it, the more anxious and unhappy they become, in turn this has an impact on their work performance and attitude as well as the workplace culture around them.

In this situation, the leader of the team needs to take urgent action to get everyone back on track.

The first thing they should do is organise an urgent team meeting and begin by discussing the impending changes and why the business decided that a structural change was necessary. People like to know why they are doing something or why a decision has been made. It helps them process the information, understand the reasons behind the decision and can assist in motivating them to do the work necessary.

The next thing to do is allow each team member time to express their thoughts and feelings. A good way to tackle this in a pro-active way is to make a pros and cons list using a whiteboard or piece of paper. For each con, the team should then come up with a list of ways to overcome this problem.

In this situation, a con might be “too much workload”. The solutions to overcoming this might be:

  • Reassess all work tasks to determine which are necessary and which can be stopped;

  • Prioritise workload and complete the most important tasks first;

  • Delegate lower priority work to another party if possible;

  • Reassign the workload amongst team members to make it more even;

  • Fluctuate people’s start and finish times to allow for higher coverage during operational hours;

  • Use technology/resources to speed up some tasks – for example attend video conferences instead of travelling to face-to-face meetings; and

  • Do a time audit to determine what team members are wasting time on, before removing these time wasters.

By spending time focusing on overcoming the challenges (cons), this allows for people to think of the end goal and ways that they can accomplish this effectively.

Solutions focused thinking understands and accepts that we cannot change the facts about our problem, but that by using this approach, it can help us to clarify the solution to make the problem workable so that we can proceed towards our goal.

Tips for Enhancing Your Solutions Focused Thinking:

To enhance your solutions focused thinking, here are some tips:

  • Understand the way your mind works: Identify and analyse your natural reactions and behavior when problems occur. By having a thorough understanding of the way your mind works and what you do, say and feel when faced with a problem, you can begin to identify what behaviours should be continued and enhanced, and which you need to work on improving.

  • Understand the problem: Seek clarity and as much information about the problem as possible so that you understand it inside and out. Having a thorough understanding of the problem will assist in removing any fear that comes with things that are “unknown”. This allows you to focus on tackling the problem head on.

  • Avoid exaggerating the problem: Problems can consume your focus, energy and motivation if you let them. Understanding your feelings and emotions and how to manage these is vital. Define the problem clearly, factually and without exaggeration. This ensures that the problem stays at its actual size rather than expanding over into other areas of your life.

  • Think optimistically: Make optimism your mantra. Believe that things are going to work out and they will. When you believe something, then you will end up creating your own reality. You will find a way to make it work, regardless of the obstacles you face.

  • Learn from your mistakes: Rather than focusing on what could go wrong or what did go wrong, look for the positives. What can you learn from your mistake, what lessons can this problem teach you so that you can avoid similar problems in the future.

  • Look at the big picture – what are you trying to achieve? In challenging times it is easy to get bogged down in the detail. It is important to remain focused on the big picture – what are you trying to achieve and why? Always keep your end goal in mind as this will motivate you to overcome obstacles.

  • Give yourself time to think: When faced with issues or problems, don’t just rush into reactive mode. Give yourself the opportunity to think things through calmly and rationally.

  • Come up with a list of solutions to each problem/challenge and then choose one: For each problem or challenge that you face, come up with a list of solutions. Once you have your list of possible solutions, weigh each one up carefully and choose the best option.

  • Work with other solution focused thinkers to tackle a problem: Sometimes resolving problems or coming up with solutions to solve them requires you to think outside of the square, and you may even need to involve other members. The more minds that are working towards solutions, the more ideas you will get.

  • Ask for help: Everyone needs assistance every so often, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

About PDI Solutions:

PDI Solutions can work with organisations to develop and deliver training solutions tailored to your particular organisation around leadership, team building or any other professional development. Contact us today for a free consultation at info@pdisolutions.com.au or visit our website at pdisolutions.com.au

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