Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Approach Problems in a Professional, Logical and Systematic Manner

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A critical element of business is building relationships that ultimately result in partnerships. As all relationships have problems, the successful employee knows how to handle these issues efficiently and professionally in order to keep relationships productive. Constructive interaction resolves problems to everyone’s satisfaction, which builds good will and trust. The resulting solid relationships can provide the companies with the elusive edge in highly competitive markets.

Many employees are placed on the defensive when faced with a problem. Rather than diagnosing a problem logically, they react emotionally.

There are several types of problems that confront employees, many of which stem from deficiencies in the performance of a product or service. Customers can also create fictitious problems in an effort to gain an advantage in their business relationships. Additionally, there are perceived problems: situations where nothing is actually amiss, but for one reason or another the customer perceives a problem. While any issue—internal or external, real or perceived—can be trying, in all cases the employee must maintain his or her composure and approach the problem in a professional, logical and systematic manner.

People realize that in an imperfect world they will encounter problems. However, it is not the situation itself that tends to cause difficulties, but how the employee reacts to it. Surveys have indicated that a rapid, helpful response and resolution to an issue can strongly bind a customer to the company and employees to each other, whereas a sloppy and slow response can result not only in losing valued employees and customers, but also in turning them into activists that will do anything to undermine the business.

The next time managers are faced with a problem, they can follow the systematic approach outlined below, bearing in mind that speed is indispensable to problem solving.

Identify the Problem

Employees and customers will no doubt bring problems to light without being prompted. The identification of an issue allows the manager to begin a diagnosis and gauge the potential impact of the situation. This step affords the opportunity to establish the importance of the situation and determine how fast to respond.

Define Parameters

Once the issue is identified, it is up to the manager to distinguish the real cause of the problem. Many complaints are either symptomatic of a larger problem or point to other unresolved departmental issues; still others are wholly unrelated to the company’s product or service. The manager will need to define the problem by probing and asking pertinent questions in order to discover needs, expectations and the ultimate reasons behind the problem.

Qualify the Problem

When qualifying, the manager is determining where responsibility for the problem lies. Often when an employee or customer voices a complaint, they place the blame on parties that have little or no responsibility for the problem.

In terms of accounts, a flooring retailer, recounting the instance of a customer coming into his store and vocally complaining about the carpet she bought and its installation, disclosed that upon further examination it was found the customer had purchased the carpeting from a cut-rate competitor and had it installed by an incompetent handyman. She wasn’t a customer, but felt compelled to tell someone, and the only one available was this retailer. It wasn’t his problem, but he was able to turn this ugly situation into a new and happy account.

Quantify the Problem

When quantifying the problem, the manager is defining the size and scope of the situation and zeroing in on the ultimate impact the issue will have on the business. For example, a small order of a critical product can literally shut down a production line. It is up to the manager to identify the extent of the problem and the resulting impact on their employees’ and/or customers’ situation. All too often employees minimize what appears to be a small problem, but in fact has a significant impact. Managers must be careful when dealing with such issues, as how they are handled can ultimately determine future outcomes.

Examine the Problem

During the examining phase, the manager is identifying the source and potential causes of the problem. Decision makers need to examine what has happened, why, and who is responsible for the problem. The process should not be a fault-finding expedition, but a search for the genuine causes of the problem.

In terms of customers, examination includes identifying whether issues such as late delivery, a manufacturing defect, faulty materials or a lack of education caused the problem. The goal is to determine where the ultimate problem lies as well as examine the options that are available to resolve the immediate problem.

Resolve

Once causes have been identified, the problem can be solved to all parties’ satisfaction. Managers who attempt to minimize difficulties at this critical juncture are only hurting themselves. A successful company will do anything to correct a problem, whether internal or external, in a satisfactory and timely manner. Any extra expense will be readily recouped in future productivity and business; failure to follow through with an adequate resolution will build considerable barriers to productivity. The time and money required to thoroughly address a problem are minimal when compared to the productivity gains and repeat business represented by happy employees and customers.

Report Findings

Findings should be reported to senior management so that the cause of the problem can be remedied and a record made in order to avoid its recurrence. The manager’s findings should not spark recriminations, but positive changes within the company that will prevent this type of situation from arising again. These adaptations should allow the company to grow, prosper and thrive while making the manager’s job easier.

No one wants to have to continually solve the same problem with different employees or accounts, as this ultimately undermines the manager’s credibility and the reputation of the company.

Related:

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Excerpt: Problem Solving: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

February 13, 2013 at 10:50 am

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  1. […] Approach Problems in a Professional, Logical and Systematic Manner. […]


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