Don’t Rush to the Solution

Don’t rush to the solution. That’s what I keep telling myself when I realize I am in the weeds of an issue.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Recently, I dove into solving what I thought was the problem, only to realize later that I had buried myself into the minutiae of details and was ultimately not making the change that was necessary. I had to stop, pull back, and look at the issue from the 30-foot view to define the actual problem. As Albert Einstein once stated: “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

As a leader, it is vital to keep the long view and the broad view of the systems at play. When leaders take time to reflect, think, and listen, they are more likely to come to a collective decision that can affect lasting and true change. When leaders rush to a solution, they often miss the larger system that needs repair and may even start solving the wrong problem. 

Don’t rush to solve what you initially think is the problem. Take time to find the actual problem. This can feel uncomfortable initially. Stay in the discomfort and you will see the benefits. Problem finding is a step that we often skip or spend little time on as leaders because we feel pressure to be the knower, the doer, and the solver who is affecting change quickly. 

Thoughts to Consider:

  • When you are approached with an issue, spend time listening (not speaking or offering solutions). 
  • Gather data. Conduct surveys. Take notes as you listen in an actual paper notebook. Taking notes on a computer during a face-to-face meeting can feel off-putting to other participants.
  • Then, ask questions.
  • Take time to reflect. Let people know that you need time to reflect and you will get back to them at a designated time. This is okay and a good practice to model for your direct reports. Use the notes and your data. Read them carefully. Look for patterns.
  • Spend time problem finding and Problem Framing.
  • Decide who you want to Inform, Consult, and Co-own the issue along with you.

Some benefits to this approach:

  • You will likely begin to see the larger systems at work in an issue. 
  • It might lead to more long-lasting solutions, rather than band-aids.
  • This approach can lead to more collaboration. If you are not always the knower and the doer, others in your team will develop skills to do the work.
  • This approach leads to a more inquiry-based leadership style, displaying curiosity and a learner’s stance as a leader.

My strategic thinking as a leader improved as I took time to slow down and not rush into the solution. Take time to reflect and you will improve your decision-making and problem-solving approach. Try these steps next time you find yourself rushing into a solution. Take a deep breath. Slow down. The problem is not going anywhere.