Monday, September 5, 2011

Leadership for problem solving

by Rev. James Wong

I left you in Crete, so that you could put in order the things that still needed doing and appoint church elders in every town. Remember my instructions:” (Titus 1:5 TEV).

There were problems in the church in Crete. The apostle Paul called upon Titus to organize the chaos and establish leaders in that church. In another incident, when conflict arose between the Corinthian church and Paul, Titus took the initiative and worked with the church until he achieved peace (see 2 Cor 7:5-7). Thus, he prevented a possible church split. Titus was the man with problem-solving skills.

Problem solving is one of the key skills of leadership. In fact, every profession exists to solve specific problems. A doctor exists to solve health problems. A lawyer exists to solves legal problems. Church leadership exists to solve church problems. An effective leader is a good problem solver.

How can we improve our problem-solving skills? Here are four basic steps in the problem solving process.

1. Defining the problem. We need to pin point exactly what the problem is. We need to ask, what is the real issue, not its symptoms. For example, the work in the office is substandard. We may think that the problem lies with the individual but if we look deeper, the real problem might be a lack of training and unclear expectation. Often, a single problem may turn out to be a series of problems.

2. Generating alternatives. This is the brainstorming stage where possible solutions to the problems are being discovered and discussed. Coming back to the example of the substandard work in the office, some possible solutions include retrenching, issuing warning letters, face to face confrontation, retraining, spell out clear expectations, redeploying and etc.

3. Selecting alternatives. In this stage all the possible solutions and their consequences are being evaluated. The best alternatives are being chosen to solve the real problem at hand.

4. Implementing the solutions. This is the action stage where the solutions are put into effect. The implementation of the solutions may be in stages to achieve the desired result. Not just talk; an action worth a thousand pictures.

“Problem solving is the fastest way to gain leadership…. When someone steps forward with solutions, he or she catches the attention of others” (John Maxwell, The Maxwell Leadership Bible, p.1518). Leadership is not just about leading, it is more about problem-solving. Let us see ourselves in this role.

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