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Senior Correspondent

The Greater Challenge

The Greater Challenge


Problems are roadblocks to results.

Exceptional leaders lean into problems; mediocre turn away. If you want to lead, solve a problem, the bigger the better.

But, solving problems doesn’t produce results.

5 un-leaderly responses to problems:

  1. Hand-wringing: Worry coupled with lack of confidence in teams and colleagues.
  2. Whining: Discussing difficulties, without exploring solutions.
  3. Fault-finding: Looking for mistakes, while neglecting progress.
  4. Drama-making: The world’s coming to an end. What are we going to do?
  5. Accusing: You screwed up. It’s not my fault.


Define problems in behavioral terms.

The first step in solving a problem is talking about it in ways that ignite energy.

“Just tell me what people are doing, or not doing, that’s causing the problem.” The New One Minute Manager, Blanchard and Spencer.

Describe observable behaviors that cause problems, don’t explain. Sentences that begin with “That’s because,” are self-justifying speculation.

Focus on things within your control. Things you can observe. Things out of your control drain, defeat, and discourage.

The greater challenge:

The greater challenge of leadership is determining behaviors that produce results, not solving problems. Solving problems is the easy part.

Identify results and set goals, but focus on day-to-day behaviors.

“Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.” Drucker

Solving problems is taking away negatives. Producing results is adding positives. Leaders do both. But, here’s the rub, a problem solved doesn’t produce results.

Success begins when you engage in behaviors that produces results.

Negative leaders focus on stopping. Positive leaders identify actionable behaviors that deliver results.

Experience shows that leaders spend too much time solving problems and not enough exploiting opportunities.

What problem-solving strategies work for you?

How might leaders exploit opportunities?

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