5 Ways To Hone Your Problem-Solving Abilities And Become An Expert In Your Field

Solving problems increases your value as an expert and empowers those around you to think critically as well.

Each day we all have to make decisions and we all face problems that need solving. Whether the issue is big or small, we all set goals for ourselves, face challenges, and strive to overcome them.

When you help others overcome their problems by offering fast-track solutions your value as an expert automatically increases. It's important to realize that being a problem solver isn't just an ability; it's a whole mind-set, one that drives people to bring out the best in themselves so be very clear on your direction.

Problem solving is easy when you know how to approach it effectively. Your goal as an expert should be to help others turn problem solving into a habit so that they feel more empowered when future problems arise.

You will be most remembered by the problems you solve for your clients with your expertise. You deal with problems that might otherwise seem huge, overwhelming, or excessively complex to others. Don’t take your knowledge and expertise for granted. Your way of looking at things, your way of thinking, is unique, and it is based upon your own experiences, failures, and successes. That’s what your clients pay for. You offer them a shortcut to problem-solving. You help by moving them away from obstacles that are stunting their growth and you guide them in the right direction for expansion.

To be an effective problem-solver, you need to be systematic and logical at the same time. When you solve problems you help others make more effective decisions that can improve their personal or professional lives. And as you increase your problem-solving skills, you also increase your own confidence and value as an expert.

Here are five steps to improving your problem-solving skills:

1. Define each problem in detail before trying to solve it

Take time to understand the problem, understand the criteria for a good decision, and generate some good options.

2. Offer one or two firmly suggested solutions

Offering too many suggestions will only confuse your client and allow him to become indecisive. Be very clear on the direction you offer with your solution and ask the person or team you are supporting to repeat it back so that it is clear.

3. Prioritize your client’s action steps to help avoid overwhelm

If your client agrees to take action, ask him to relax and focus on moving forward. Be sure that the action-steps requested are doable and achievable in a timely manner.

4. Implement a step-by-step plan of action

When you approach problems systematically, you cover the essentials each time—and your decisions are well thought out, well planned, and well executed. Provide a checklist and mark off each item as it is achieved so that others feel that they are achieving their goals and moving away from problems, obstacles, and challenges as they take action steps. This will keep them motivated and in motion.

5. Look for more ways to improve upon the problem-solving idea to avoid future problems

Continue to perfect your problem-solving skills and use them for continuous improvement initiatives to serve your clients’ needs. The more effectively you solve problems, the more value you create as the go-to authority.

Develop a system to support more people in a timely manner by making note of your problem-solving process. Many of the problems you solve for others will be the same or similar problems you will support others with in the future.

This article is adapted from The Highly Paid Expert: Turn Your Passion, Skills, and Talents Into a Lucrative Career by Becoming the Go-to Authority in Your Industry (Career Press, July 2014) by Debbie Allen.

[Image: Alex Kuzovlev via Shutterstock]

Add New Comment

5 Comments

  • Peter Gluck

    A good paper, congrats. However, if you want a really professional approach of Problem Solving, please read this- the introductory part (Laws of Probletence) and the Addenda; http://egooutpeters.blogspot.ro/2014/08/lenr-wants-to-grow-up.html

    The Rules of Problem Solving are presented in a general context here:http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2015

    Take this seriously, please I am living in the spirit of Fast Company and i know this will help, Best wishes

    Peter

  • Lesli Briesemeister Hill

    Honing your problem solving skills doesn't do a thing unless you know what the problem is. This is the problem. What is the client's issue? They don't really think they have one. So how does one really uncover it?

  • Hi Lesli…from my experience it's a "before/after" thing. Here is what I mean by that. Setting clear and specific objectives before the fact will eliminate confusion after the fact.

    I've experienced the client saying "Well…I wish this, or that…" well after we launched a campaign or project. No matter what the "wish" is at that point, I always bring it back to the agreed upon objectives we made at the beginning. If they want to make a change, that's fine. But it's clear there wan't a problem on our end, rather a change of opinion on theirs. Then we put the new objective in place and hold all future conversations accountable to that.

    Hope that helps a little. Have a great day!

    Brett

  • Robbyn Robbyns

    Wow..well, I'm a mite horrified. Allen wrote a clever, easy to work with paper on problem solving and possible kudos...and Hill threw in an intriguing query...AND Gould ignores the issue, the client, the problem and deals with how to service his ego.