As a manager, we are going to be involved in dealing with problems.  It goes with the territory. Additionally, our lives are going to be inundated with problems as we go along, this is just a fact of life.  How we deal with these problems is the most important thing especially when we deal with what we believe to be significant problems.

When we have what we believe is a large problem, we can panic.  If we are not careful, we will begin to think that this problem is so vast and massive it just can’t be undone.  Worse still if it's in our personal life, we can start making excuses such as "I can never change".  If we aren’t careful, we will start to believe and manifest this behaviour and before long create a habit that we can’t deal with problems.

This way of thinking is total rubbish, of course, you can deal with anything if you put your mind to it. Ok some key areas to think about regarding dealing with significant problems.

Is it really a problem? – Perception is critical here, it may be a problem for us but is it a problem. I find writing the problem down can help if the problem is real.  I know I have realised that a perceived problem isn’t a problem once you write it down.

Break a problem down – large problems are tiny problems bundled together, a maths teacher once taught me that.  I believe that we can start to break the large problem down and work on the smaller issues that contribute towards the larger problem first it can help us significantly.  In the workplace, huge problems are usually the result of many small issues coming together.  We can break these down into manageable sized problems.  Someone once said to me “How do we eat an Elephant… one bite at a time”.  Work on the smaller issues to achieve great results.

Have action plans – whenever I have a problem I have an action plan which is a plan to solve a problem. Again breaking this larger problem down into manageable sized chunks works brilliantly.  Also writing why we are taking action helps us to focus and promotes motivation.  A classic example of this would be in our personal lives and if you were overweight and wanted to lose two stone.  I would have a list of actions I was going to take e.g. run three times a week starting from… and remove bread from my diet four days a week starting from… etc.  At the end action plan, I would write something like “Losing weight would be a significant achievement for me and I want my family to be proud of me knowing that I have lost two stone”. This is very important to motivate us.  Remember, always keep this close by in a book or pinned to the wall, don’t file it away!

Give yourself targets – always review the problems you have decided to work on, ask yourself questions such as “What is going well” and “What could I do better or differently”.  I guarantee when you ask these powerful questions you will start to look for answers.  Furthermore, always give yourself targets to work to.  Don’t make excuses why you can’t give targets, give yourself targets!

We all have problems, and it doesn’t matter if they come up in your work life as a manager/leader or your personal life.  I believe we need problems to survive and people at work can suffer if they don’t have problems.  If we remove issues from our life, then it becomes boring, and our motivation starts to slow down.  One thing is for sure when we solve problems it can be a life-changing experience.

Ralph Moody is the founder of Target Training and specialises in trainer and management development.  You can read more about him here.  To see courses where Ralph delivers see our website here.