By Kara Brown, CEO and CRO of LeadCoverage, an Advisor B2B Demand/Lead Gen + Marketing agency.
While I pride myself on solving complex problems and making tough decisions, I was caught off guard when a coach asked me, “How do you solve problems?”
Following a silent blank stare that seemed to last a lifetime, I told him I didn’t know. He persisted, telling me that everyone has a process to make decisions and solve problems, even if they aren’t aware of it.
After some reflection, I realized that, indeed, I did have a process. And for me, that process was rooted in recognizing my patterns.
Patterns → Processes → Problem-Solving
We all have patterns; the way we talk, behave and move through the world is connected to the things we unconsciously do on repeat. Our patterns inform our processes, which in turn become our method of problem-solving and decision-making.
The trick to leveraging those unconscious things is to make them, well, less unconscious. Awareness and intentionality are your greatest tools in that challenge. If you’re aware of what issue you’re dealing with, you can take intentional steps to solve it.
Here’s a three-step process to improve your decision-making and problem-solving:
Step 1: Identify the problem/decision.
It’s important here to be specific about the problem or decision to be made. Instead of wondering, “Should I open a new office?” ask, “Should I open a new office in Chicago in the fall with my new partner?” The latter includes clarity on the main decision (whether or not to open a new office), but it also considers the destination, timeframe and others impacted in the decision.
This works for your personal decisions, too. Swap a few words from our first example and you’ll get: “Should I go on vacation?” and “Should I go on vacation in Europe in the fall with my husband?” Again, identifying the specific decision to be made will help you eventually solve it by providing more information in your deliberations.
Step 2: Ask a minimum of five people for feedback.
These five should include people you respect and who know you. When I say “know you,” what I’m really saying is that those people are well aware of your gaps. These are the folks who understand what you’re not good at, your blind spots and potential pitfalls. The more people who know you well, give you feedback, ask questions and challenge you, the faster you will grow as a human, leader and entrepreneur. And the more open you are to receiving that, the better you’ll be at making decisions.
For instance, because I have a lot of coaches (five, to be exact), I tend to use them as members of my trusted five, but my mom also makes the cut. My husband likes to joke that I couldn’t make a decision without her, and that’s because she’s someone who knows me best. I’ll usually know the answer to my query, but typically one to two of the five will give me something else entirely to consider. Going back to the earlier questions, they might say, “You know, Jeff Bezos is going to space. What about opening an office/going on vacation there?”
The beauty of new information is that it offers up options you would have never thought of on your own, opening you and your world to multiple solutions.
Step 3: Decide if you’re sticking with your original solution or considering a new solution.
If your answer changed, go back and get five people to weigh in, repeating the process. Those can be completely new individuals or a mixture of some of your original five and a few newbies.
For those who might dismiss this as pushing off the decision to other people, I beg to differ. There is much value in collecting data. This approach works for me because I’m a deductive thinker, meaning that I like to gather new information from numerous sources before making a decision. The more people involved, the better. This isn’t to share the blame, but instead to share and garner learnings from a wide swath of expertise.
It also speaks to maintaining a growth mindset. When you’re willing and open to receiving the best advice, feedback and experience shares from unexpected places, you increase your capacity for learning and optimizing your results.
If you’re sticking to your original solution (or you’ve completed another round and now feel confident in your choice), congratulations! You just made a decision that’s been carefully considered and vetted by people you trust and who know you best, whether that’s five or 15.
The other benefit of sharing your decision-making process is that it can help you and others gain clarity, creating a feedback loop with those involved. Plus, those people will tend to share their decision-making process with you.
I know I don’t have a confidence or sales gap, but I most definitely have a finance and operations gap. The greatest gift I’ve given myself as I’ve matured as an entrepreneur, leader and person is to surround myself with people who complement me and my skill set. I can offer my perspective and assistance to those who can benefit from it, and they can help me in areas where I’m not as strong. That’s a win-win.