Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 188 – How To Get Better At Problem-Solving & Develop Leadership Level Problem Solvers

Dear leaders, do you want to know how to get better at solving problems? 

If the answer is no I’d be very surprised. 

When you’re faced with a huge problem or a brand new problem you’ve never faced before. 

What do you do?

  • Do you automatically stress and panic? 
  • Do you look for help?
  • Do you go into autopilot and make quick muscle memory-driven decisions? 
  • Do you revisit or review prior issues and problems to reignite the problem-solving muscle you have been building your whole professional career? 

Reflex Actions? 

We all have a bank of problems we have experienced or been connected to, some learn from them, others struggle to remember the details and don’t have the sixth sense that waves the big red flags in front of us to warn us. 

Problems become a reflex action for many experienced leaders (most don’t even have to think, they act).  

The best learn from problems and develop a sixth sense of how to think and tackle major problems and the most efficient stay calm under pressure, some even thrive. 

You’ll likely have a (unknown) two-by-two matrix in your head of where the problem fell and how you had to tackle these problems. 

The 2×2 could be problem size by problem impact, scored by small to big and then apply the actions right away. 

Reaction & The Ripple Effect Is Everything 

One of the biggest signs of a leader on their journey is instant stress and panic. 

You can always witness a less experienced leader who will run around, make a lot of noise and make people around them feel pressure and stress – this is either deliberate or often a sign they haven’t been in situations before or learnt from related problems. This ripples through the business and causes panic – this is not an environment to thrive in. 

If some appear to thrive in causing more confusion and chaos they aren’t a leader at all. 

Clarify, Remove Confusion, Confront 

The best leaders often will take a beat, ask clarifying questions, review their experience and bring in the best people to solve the problem(s) at hand. 

As I have shared before and in my superpowers and kryptonite newsletter, one of the powers I was made aware of was my “ability not to panic and to be a calm person in business problems” So below is how I got here and how you can apply a similar approach. 

I am often asked in coaching and inside of my problem-solving workshops how businesses can get better at decision-making and problem-solving and my answer is simple. 

Enter The Problem Wiki  

Create an open wiki of problems, and the solutions used and then revisit to remind yourselves you have faced numerous issues before and review how you’d tackle the issue today. 

Remember: Over the last decade (and specifically the last 4 years) we have lived and operated in numerous huge problems and the likelihood is you made 70% good to great decisions. 

In some cases, you may have made quick and less well-thought-through or informed decisions that (may) negatively impact you or the company. If it’s under 10% you’re likely doing a good job. 

The trick is to know – hindsight is a wonderful thing and to add notes to say this was in play or this wasn’t. Remember those guardrails I talk about often, this is where your guardrails will be important to keep note of and understand how to move when required and how to incorporate them in the future. 

Templated Help

The decision document (my free template for sharing the most important decisions and how you got to them and how to ask clarifying questions) is just one way to be able to review your decisions of the last year(s) and then revisit how well you did and where you can optimise decisions for the future. 

Without sharing with your leadership and management team and importantly reviewing how are you going to move forward as a business and let it positively spread throughout your business? Async coaching is something many do not talk about but can be priceless with the right approach. 

This week’s action item for you is to book a slot in your calendar to create a decision document and a problem wiki, review the last big 5-10 decisions and revisit the most important problems and the actions you took over the last year and add real detailed commentary to what, why, who and how you tackled these problems. If you then open this up and share internally you will offer a chance for those around you to learn and grow out the problem-solving muscle. 

Have a great week and I’ll land in your inbox next Monday morning with an extra special leaders letters. 


Danny Denhard