People often find it difficult to stop trying to solve a problem because ‘deep down’ they (we) stick to thinking that an explanation is both realizable and indispensable if a problem is to really be solved. Solutions to problems are frequently missed because they often look like mere preliminaries; we end up searching for explanations believing that without explanation a solution is irrational, not recognizing that the solution itself is it’s own best explanation. – Steve de Shazer
On the opening day of a 12-month internal organization Leadership Development Process I tried framing the 12 months within these boundaries:
- Leadership is contextual = we need to understand the context you are being asked to exercise leadership accountability within and what clues or tools will allow you to best lead.
- My solution will not work for you = while many people have a close enough answer to leadership challenges, you need to frame the problem within your context and determine what capacity, skills and resources you have (or know) can make progress.
- The current environment is enough = where you are and what you know right now is sufficient. When challenged to make a leadership decision the more you understand the current environment (the gemba) and ask people to show you what is happening the better.
- When something works take notice = leadership is creating awareness of the minute details and how those things happen. When something happens that the team would like to have happen more take notice, figure out with the team what happened and test an experiment to repeat what worked.
- The team will grow or wither based on the organizational system and your capacity = your accountability as a leader is to add value to the decision-making and problem-solving of the team and to supply resources to complete the work.
- You will be wrong about 50% of the time. When you wrong admit it = nobody believes that leaders need to be superheroes. When you are wrong, make a bad decision, offend somebody, and fail to understand the environment tell the team, apologize and bring the team together to develop the next small experiment.
These 6 ideas above are meant to create enough separation from the belief that leadership requires a deep understanding of problems.
As a leader finding solutions or making progress is not the absence of problems, it is looking for what is happening when the problem is absent.
What happens in the problems absence is an area of what’s working that can be amplified, that is your accountability as a leader.