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Solutions or Problems: What’s Your Focus? – Better! Results Tip #4

Be careful as you read this. Proceed slowly and with appropriate caution. Because what you read here may fundamentally change the way you think.

Here’s a simple test. When an issue comes up – at work, home or elsewhere – what’s your focus? On the problem or on finding solutions?

what’s your focus? On the problem or on finding solutions?

Jerry was known as a guy who could slice and dice a problem a hundred different ways. He would study, seek deep data, list variables, analyze root causes, and then be paralyzed when it came time to take actions that might actually solve the problem at hand. Co-workers and supervisors agreed: Jerry was 95% focused on analyzing the problem leaving only a spark of energy and time left to solve it.

Friends and co-workers felt even more sternly about Mary Pat. When an issue needed a fix, she was the one all could depend on to complain, complain, complain. And of course, it was never her fault, so why should she even bother to get involved.

Then there’s Marie. People enjoyed working with Marie. She had a habit of acknowledging an issue, putting reasonable effort into determining likely causes, and then getting her team together to put their heads down to find solutions. She would often call her staff into a conference room, lay out the issue in less than ten minutes, and then ask everyone to help her by brainstorming possible solutions. These free-flowing discussions would usually run for about 30 minutes, but never longer than an hour. And she expected contributions from everyone present.

One of her staff summed up Marie’s approach in this short statement. “She’s 20% issues and 80% solutions. Every day.” In fact, that’s exactly what was written on a flip chart in the group’s conference room. Result: Marie and her team built a reputation for solving problems, not just staring at or dancing around them.

That’s a great spin on the old 80/20 rule where theoretically 80% of our results cPut 80% of our efforts into solving problems.ome from 20% of our efforts. Put 80% of our efforts into solving problems.

Hmmm…that might just be a Better! approach. (And if you’ve attended my results training or followed my blogs, you already know I’m all about Better!)

So here’s the test for you. When an issue comes up or a challenge needs to be addressed, what’s your focus? If you’re reading this article, I doubt you’re a complainer like Mary Pat. And few among us get so deep into issue analysis that like Jerry we simply have no energy left to choose and implement possible solutions. But do you live the balance that Marie brings?

Next time you face a routine decision or complicated issue, put appropriate effort into analysis and causes. Fact-finding and analysis are certainly important. But move more quickly to solutions.

Try out Marie’s time model of 20% analysis and 80% solutions. See if it works for you. It does for me!

John J. Hall, CPA


John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA, is an author, speaker and results expert who presents around the world at conventions, corporate meetings and association events. Throughout his 38-year career as a business consultant, corporate executive and professional speaker, John has helped organizations and individuals achieve measurable results. He inspires audience members in corporations, not-for-profit organizations and professional associations to step up, take action and “do what you can.”

Thinking is the hardest work we do

Stop What You’re Doing – Better! Results Tip #3

“Thinking is the hardest work we do.” This famous quote has been attributed to Henry Ford. It appears in offices and schools on motivational posters and coffee mugs.

But what’s missing from this energizing message is the next line, and it’s oh-so important. So let me give you the whole thing here:

“Thinking is the hardest work we do…

which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”

TIME FOR SUCCESS! (2)Ouch! That hurts so much because it’s so true for me. Each day, I react to the next urgent issue, answer emails as quickly as possible, spend too much time on the phone, finish too may tasks and projects minutes before they’re due, and somehow ‘work’ between 10 and 12 hours too often feeling like I didn’t get anything strategically important accomplished. Just busy, busy, busy from before dawn until after dark most days.

How about you? Do you jump endlessly from one issue to the next, convincing yourself that somehow multi-tasking (multi-thinking??) is more efficient and energizing? Perhaps leading to more innovative ‘a-ha’ moments than focused disciplined thinking could possibly provide?

Well, if so, then we’re both headed in the wrong direction.

To be honest, thinking isn’t really that hard. What appears to be hard is the discipline to push aside distractions, block the time, find a quiet place, and – quite simply – think.

Thinking is the hardest work we doCopying the Behaviors of Successful People

As a core part of my own professional and personal development, I’ve become a big believer in finding someone who does something really well that I’m interested in doing, and just copying what they do. For me, it’s worked for becoming a better speaker, consultant, auditor and coach. And it can work for you, too.

That’s how I ran across John C. Maxwell. In his book How Successful People Think, Maxwell suggests that successful people “fight the hectic pace of life that discourages intentional thinking.”

O.K., that makes sense, but the big divide is the difference between knowing it and doing it.

In a similar vein, several of my coaches and advisors have said that we all need to ‘block the time’ to think or to focus exclusively on an important project or task. ‘Blocking the time’ means literally putting it on your calendar, accepting no interruptions, turning off your phone or laptop, closing the door, sitting comfortably – and thinking!

Your Action Challenge

Whenever and wherever you are reading this, stop right now. That’s correct – RIGHT NOW. Take five minutes with no other distractions in order to fully appreciate the gift of quiet time to think.

You may need to go find a place to hide. Your cubicle at work may be too noisy. Your desk at home may be too cluttered. The coffee shop where you go each morning to escape and relax may have the music turned all the way up. If so – think: where can I go RIGHT NOW to enjoy five minutes of uninterrupted, undistracted time to think.

For Better! results in your business or personal life, make the positive choice to Stop What You’re Doing. Then repeat this gift every day. Allowing yourself a few minutes each day to do nothing but think is a great gift. It’s free and it’s just for you. So try it and enjoy.

Let me know how it goes.

John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA, is an author, speaker and results expert who presents around the world at conventions, corporate meetings and association events. Throughout his 38-year career as a business consultant, corporate executive and professional speaker, John has helped organizations and individuals achieve measurable results. He inspires audience members in corporations, not-for-profit organizations and professional associations to step up, take action and “do what you can.”