There is a difference between problem solving and solution finding. Consider the two equations above. What’s the difference?
In the top one, 7 x 3 = ?, there is only one correct answer: 21.
In the bottom one, ? = 21, there are many possible paths (equations) that can result in 21 as the final answer.
The top one exemplifies problem solving. The bottom one represents solution finding.
The traditional approach to problem solving is to figure what’s wrong and fix it. The idea being, “What we are getting isn’t working. How do we fix it, so that we don’t get that?” We are looking for the right answer to the problem.
In that approach, we often become experts in the problem. Even worse, we get fixated on the first right sounding answer we come up with. This robs us of the opportunity to consider other creative possibilities, or even to consider whether we are fixing the right problem.
The trouble we often run into is, after applying the fix, we still are not getting what we want. So, I’ve learned:
NOT GETTING WHAT YOU DON’T WANT, WILL NOT GUARANTEE YOU WILL GET WHAT YOU DO WANT.
Solution finding turns the process around.
The first question we need to answer is, “What do we want?” Define the solution, then look for the various ways to get it.
Focusing on a desired state — the solution — sets us on a course to do what needs to be done to get what we want. This approach also helps us focus on a variety of paths to the solution which we can evaluate for effectiveness.
Once we have arrived at the most feasible approach to get what we want, anything that isn’t moving us toward the solution is off the point and probably a waste of time, effort, and resources.
Next time you bump into a problem, start by asking what the end state is that you wish to achieve — the solution. Take time to describe some quality criteria that further defines the acceptable solution.
There is a simple law of clarity at work: If you know what you want, you are more likely to get it.
Learn to be a solution finder,
and you will become
Everywhere I go managers speak openly about their desire for workers to be high performers who hold themselves accountable and responsible for their work. However, when I ask them to explain accountability, things get a little murky. They drift into generalities such as complaints about work ethic, showing initiative, and owning up to mistakes.
Usually, we think of accountability after the fact — explaining what you did.
It’s time we change the way we think and talk about accountability.
High performers are, by definition, accountable. Some are accountable by trait; that is, being accountable is a natural part of their emotional and mental make up. Others are accountable because they have learned to be so — for them it is a skill. Still others hold themselves accountable when they must — for them it is a discipline. Yet, all high performers have found a way to be accountable, “from the inside, out.”
I define accountability as: Taking personal responsibility to find ways to make things better, acting on it, and getting results.
This definition parallels my definition of an INPowered person.
The INPowered are those who, of their own free will, take positive action to improve themselves so they can make life better for themselves and for others.
There are five common elements to these two definitions
- It’s personal
- It’s proactive
- It’s performance driven
- It’s productive
- It’s purposeful
As you know, developing one’s personal brand is all the rage these days. Branding expert, Bruce Turkel, counsels us that the brand is not the logo or the promotional materials. He said your brand is what people say about you when you are not present.
It’s personal. Your brand evokes an emotional response from others. It’s how they experience you. INPowered people know this.
Consequently, the INPowered put themselves on the line with everything they say and do — even when no one is watching. The INPowered are driven from the inside, out.
The INPowered do not pass the buck, neither do they blame others for circumstances. The INPowered accept the situation for what it is and ask, “What’s the best way to respond?”
The accountable live in the present with an eye on the future. The assume they have permission to act. They continually focus on the possibilities to be found in solutions instead of being obsessed by mistakes and obstacles — what I call the, “Should’a, could’a, would’a,” excuse making.
The accountable benchmark current performance and look for ways to improve. High performers are never content to be as good today as they were yesterday. They are always finding ways to be just a little better in every aspect of their life. The INPowered know there is nothing holding them back.
Obstacles stimulate them to think differently about their circumstances and find ways around them. As they strive to reach their potential, they intuitively know they are actually increasing their potential. (See post, “Hope I never reach my potential.”)
It’s performance driven
Performance is doing the work required to get the desired results. Regardless of what you do, you must do it to the best of your ability. There is just no substitute for performance.
I had the good fortune to know a young woman who wanted to become an attorney. Before I met her she had overcome tremendous personal obstacles that began with becoming a single mother at 15, escaping from an abusive marriage, and finding a way to support herself and her son. She became a paralegal, earned a degree in criminal justice, then got into law school through an alternative probationary program. For three years she studied relentlessly around the clock. She graduated in the upper third of her class, while smarter students dropped out along the way. She passed the bar exam on her first try. She became an associate in a small law firm, then a partner. Now she has her own practice.
INPowered? Without question.
Performance driven? Her life speaks for itself: res ipsa loquitur
Results are the only measure of success. In football (the American kind), the only team statistic that counts is the final score. Along the way we keep measures of individual progress, — yards gained, passes caught, first downs — but those are only indicators of activity. They are not the true result.
The accountable understand the difference between activity and results, and they focus on the results. This means, they are clear about the results they are seeking. They know what they want. If it isn’t clear, they clear it up, then get on with it.
As the fictional Star Wars Jedi master, Yoda, said, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
And one thing more . . .
The INPowered and the accountable are driven by a sense of purpose and meaning. They are passionate about the results they are seeking.
When I hear managers lament that their employees are not accountable, I generally find that the employees have no passion for what they are doing. Sure, they want to do a good job, but their effort is a transaction: time for dollars. But when they find a passion associated with their effort, they can create transformational results.
When I hear people talk about their interests and passions, there is a twinkle in their eyes and a creative energy that exudes from their core. There is nothing they won’t do to make it happen.
They are INPowered and accountable.