The biggest barrier to solving anything

The biggest barrier to solving anything

Have you ever tried to solve a specific problem with your team only to be bogged down in endless discussions that make everybody angry and weary and get you nowhere near a solution?

The other day I was facilitating a meeting in an organization. They were trying to solve a business problem. 

Looking from the outside, it should have been relatively easy to solve. It had nothing to do with lack of funds. It had noting to do with lack of talent. It had nothing to do with lack of capacity.

No, the problem was not lack of anything. It was more a problem of having too much! Too much ego!

While observing the dynamics, it occurred to me that almost anywhere I go, the real problem is never “the problem.”  Almost invariably the real problem is too much ego.  The bigger the egos, the bigger the likelihood of having competing agendas, competing perspectives and competing egos.

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If you think about it, whether it be two children fighting for the same toy, a couple in which neither partner willing to give an inch, two executives entrenched in their individual position, or two countries fighting over borders, it’s all the same: EGO. 

If you could send all egos involved on vacation and concentrate on finding the best solution to the problem, problem solving would be a piece of cake!  Here is the thing, people tend to approach a problem from their individual agenda, feelings, and needs, instead of trying to find what is the best solution. No wonder problem solving becomes so messy!

What can you do then? How can you get over your ego and help others get over theirs? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Focus on the problem. Start with gaining clarity on what the problem is. Any time that you find yourself thinking in absolutes, of feeling defensive, re-focus on the problem and its solution. Remember, it’s not about you! It’s about finding the best solution.

2. Focus on what matters. Why is it important to solve the issue. What are the desired outcomes. What will be gained by solving the problem. Help people see how things will be better when it is solved. Get people to understand and rally around the why of and benefits of the solution.

3. Focus on understanding. One of the reasons personal agendas become a problem and “mess up” the problem solving process is for lack of open communication. Share why something is important to you. Ask the viewpoint of others. Open a genuine dialogue. 

4. Focus on solutions. Make sure you don’t use all the time only talking abut the problem. Get to solutions. Rather than posturing, or holding out for individual positions, encourage everybody to keep looking for the best possible solution.  

5. Focus on implementing the solution. Problems can fester if once a solution is found, there is not a specific implementation plan. Make sure your good efforts are not wasted.

Remember. . .

It’s not about your ego! It’s about finding the best solution for the issue and implementing it.

If you need to learn how to deal with your ego and that of those around you, Check out what a Strategic Conversations Executive Program could do for you and your career.