Mastering The Art of Problem SolvingTo get clear about the best way to effectively address a specific performance or behavior problem, the first step is asking yourself which course of action the problem calls for?

  • Is feedback sufficient?  You simply describe the person’s behavior and its impact.
  • Is coaching more appropriate?  You work to strengthen performance through teaching, training and encouraging.
  • Is it a personal matter like career counseling?  If so, you may choose to play the role of a good listener and clarifier.
  • Or, is the situation more serious?  One where behavior change is warranted, or consequences follow – consequences such as not supporting a promotion, delivering a written reprimand or pursuing termination.

Whether a behavioral concern is related to performance, attendance, attitude, appearance, or hygiene, the following questions can help you guard against unconscious, unintentional personal bias:

  • Why do I see this behavior as a problem?  Does it diminish the individual’s effectiveness, or our team’s?
  • Is the behavior out of alignment with relevant performance metrics, company policy and practice, our cultural norms and standards of professionalism?
  • Am I seeing the situation clearly?  What am I missing?  Is there an aspect of this issue that I’m blind to?
  • If anyone else on the team behaved this way, would I reach the same conclusion about the behavior?

These kinds of questions can help you think through situations more objectively, and avoid the quagmire of personal bias and favoritism.

To handle difficult or sensitive conversations effectively, you have to be well prepared.  Role-playing the scenario will help you feel confident, even in tense situations.

Set up a dress rehearsal and practice managing the conversation.  Ask a trusted source to play the role of the other person.  Coach him or her so that they know how respond, verbally and nonverbally, just as you imagine the person will.

Don’t talk about it the role-play, do it!  Live into it!  Play it out.  Practice your lines and see how you feel saying them, especially in the face of the other’s reaction.

Then, when it’s show time – time for the real conversation – you’ll feel more confident, and will be able to keep the discussion on track and deliver your important message with great care, clarity and respect.

These problem solving techniques allow you to invest the time it takes to make a mindful decision and choose the most appropriate course of action.  The right choice, well executed, can transform nearly any challenge.

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