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.”