When a crisis or problem arises in your organization, what is your first impulse?


  • “Woah… time for me to step in!”
  • “Just how quickly can I intervene?!”
  • “I gotta swoop in and solve this issue–pronto!”
  • “I have so got this thing… handled!”


Do you recognize your own thoughts in any of these super-heroic managerial mottos? There is a key word in that question: managerial. Imbedded in the core processes of management and leadership is an important distinction: Managers get people to do, while leaders get people to want to do.


Okay, you might say. Got that. But, how do effective leaders inspire that desire? Let’s bring it home: How can you motivate those around you to solve their problems using their best skills, creative thoughts and fierce dedication to the inevitable workplace challenges faced in your organization?


Look to solutions to solve your problems.


Talking about problems isn’t much fun, so I suggest you change that dialogue from traditional problem solving to a solution-focused approach that is more interesting and effective. This shift will motivate, build empowered relationships and (drumroll please) get results. When the focus of your crisis is on your management capabilities, the traditional approach to problem solving, you typically review the problem, question for greater understanding and then provide your assessment and resolution tactics.


By switching your focus to others on your team, you convey that they are able to make valuable contributions and will find effective solutions. You can adjust the solution process and outcome by asking good questions, then listening. For example:


  • How do you see the problem?
  • What will be different when the problem is solved?
  • What other choices do we have?
  • What can we do differently?
  • What’s the first step that will move us forward?


With questions like these on the table, teammates can explore their ideas for possible solutions. They buy in, think creatively, access deeper knowledge and intuition and engage their unique expertise. When you use this solution-focused technique, your leadership builds trust, collaboration and team member value. You create a new pattern of empowered and effective problem solving.


So, the next time you are tempted to ‘step in it’ with your superhero feet, think again about leading the way instead. Doing so will turn your organization’s crises into great opportunities for empowered team-centered solutions.