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If Crying Doesn't Help Solve Problems, What Does? - A 10 Step Guide to Successful Problem-Solving


Teams Need Problem-Solvers, Not Just Problem-Finders


Last week I shared that spending time clearly defining a problem before brainstorming solutions is necessary.  


The problem could be more complicated than you think or it can be a symptom instead of the underlying concern.

Once you’ve invested this time upfront,  the next steps can happen quickly.  It starts with brainstorming solutions.  You know brainstorming;  the tool that gets people thinking quickly from the creative part of their brain.  However, honoring the rules of brainstorming; no right or wrong answers, anything goes, quantity over quality and NO evaluating is essential for getting to the best solutions.   I suggest you, or someone from your team act as the facilitator of this process.  Stand up, snag a flipchart or whiteboard – something everyone can see instead of a piece of paper.  Grab a pen, write the problem at the top of the page and tell your team to “Go for it and throw out as main possible solutions as you can in 5 – 7 minutes.”   Then hold the staff accountable for NOT breaking the rules even if it means you interrupt and redirect them back to the task.  Then move on.   

The steps of problem-solving are evaluating and integrating ideas and making a decision on solutions.   Notice I said solutions with an “s.”   Your team needs to pick their top 2-3 results.  Why?  What if one doesn’t work out? What if two could be implemented at once to save time?  The best three answers are likely the best opportunities for success.  Keep these agreed upon solutions close . . . just in case.  

However,  there is more work to do.    Come back next week and discover the final three steps.

Click below to register for my FREE webinar on March 1st when I bring it all together through the 10 Step Guide to Problem-solving.  


Anyone who has ever had a problem should attend so tell your friends, co-workers, and bosses.  

Until we meet again, remember success is yours

Karin Naslund


Why Can’t I Get it Right the First Time?


Believe it or not, there is a process for successful problem-solving which I found useful in my years as a CEO of a non-profit organization and then a consultant to the nonprofit industry. I want to share it with you because it guarantees a better outcome. What would you rather have?

1. The one answer that everyone jumps at after 15 minutes of discussion that never works or,

2. A clear problem that generates at least three sound possibilities to implement. What’s the difference?

Here’s a hint by Thomas Edison, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solution.”

What did he mean?

Too often we jump to solutions – looking for the “magic bullet”– before we have defined the problem which results in weak solutions. The five important questions below will help you and your team to name the problem correctly.

1. How do we know a problem exists?

It seems to be a fundamental question, right? It creates the opportunity to identify what the problem looks like and who’s involved in it. It cuts through superficial communication and gets to the heart of the problem.

Karin’s Tip: At this time ask “Does everyone agree a problem exists?” The information provided in this answer brings clarity to circumstances surrounding the problem.

2. Do we have one problem or more than one problem?

We often try and simplify an issue that is quite complicated. In doing so, we can’t possibly begin to come up with solutions that are going to solve all of the individual components of the problem. It won’t happen through one discussion. Ask this question to add certainty to what you are addressing.

Karin’s Tip: Go back to lessons from early days in school and get comfortable asking the 5 W questions: What, When, Where, How and Why?.

3. Are we solving the problem or symptoms of the problem?

As a professional mediator and negotiator, I help people work through their issues which have turned into conflict. Underlying conflict is a problem that needs to be resolved. However, participants would rather talk about what they see or experience a change in their communication with one another (a symptom) because it is easier than having a tough conversation about what is driving the change.

Karin’s Tip: What you see isn’t always what you get. Don’t let other push forward before you know what you are addressing.

4. Who is impacted by the problem?

Who is directly affected by what is going on and how? Working in the world of non-profit means working with people who count on us (clients & families) and the stakeholders who support them. By defining who is involved, we can find solutions that will be accepted by all concerned.

Karin’s Tip: Consider all things surrounding the problem like; What is this problem costing us in time, reputation, damaged relationships, etc.

5. Now it’s time to define the problem!

When you have asked these question (and more), you are ready to state the problem in one – two sentences that have everybody understand and agreeing up its meaning. Now you can quickly and easily find the best solutions.

Karin’s Final Tip: Spend about 60% of the time you have to solve a problem on defining the problem by asking many, many questions. Think of yourself a private detective seeking information. BE CURIOUS.

Wondering what happens next? Join me next week to find out.

Check back to my website next Tuesday and sign up for my FREE webinar “If Crying Doesn’t Help Solve Problems, What Does? The 10 steps of successful problem-solving”.


Changing of the Guard in Nonprofit Leadership

Reciprocity between leaders

As we see a “changing of the guard” in nonprofit leadership, developing meaningful relationships with colleagues is important once again. Last week I worked with a regional group of executive directors that has a mix of long term and new leaders. Like the attached article indicates, new leaders are expecting support and exchange of information to be forthcoming without any investment of time and relationship. However, long-term leaders are looking for reciprocity – a give and take. They are reluctant to share what they worked years to get right with people they hardly know. Furthermore, they know important learning happens through the development of material, policy and procedure. Therefore, these long-term leaders would rather mentor new leaders through the process than hand over work already done.

Forbes article ( identifies five ways to identify when reciprocity is missing and you need to refocus if the relationship is to be sustained:

1. Don’t make excuses, just get it done.
Ongoing excuses for not doing the work will have a negative impact on the relationship. As Nike says Just Do It!

2. Who is responsible?
Have you ever been in a business relationship where there is excitement to begin with and then it wanes due to a loss of interest? I have. Through the course of my consulting career, I have worked with others on “projects” – basically an attempt to be collaborative and build on our individual strengths. In one instance we even purchased really nice portfolios and had a logo and theme for the training we would do. We pooled our resources and material and developed a five-day leadership training course. We did it exactly . . . once. The organization found it really great, so what happened? We each had our own business which took priority, so neither one of us assumed responsibility for “getting the program out there”. In the end, we parted ways. So, plan for the next step and who is responsible for getting it done.

3. Unequal resources and ability to contribute.
This exists when the organizations and/or individuals have different levels of capacity to contribute. For example, one organization is larger and has more resources or the leader is more skilled and competent in the job.

4. Collaboration requires give and take.
Organizations are expected to collaborate, but it’s much harder than you think. There must be a willingness to work for the benefit of both interests. This means letting go of your own agenda and how the work gets done to building a direction and process that is beneficial to everyone involved.

5. Appreciate your partners
It’s easy to lose site of the work being done by others especially when you’re busy. At these times, one side may feel like they are being taken for granted and begin distancing themselves from the relationship.

So remember it’s hard work building and maintaining relationships. Think carefully about your ability to give it what it needs to succeed because the alternative is not good.

The 10 Golden Rules of Effective Management

Reciprocity between leaders

The attached article provides a synopsis on great management practises. Not surprisingly, communication, consistency, recognition, and role modeling are important. I want to focus on Set the goal of working as a team.

I encourage frontline team leaders to have a “terms of reference” developed with their team that includes a purpose, goals, roles, expectations for communication (e.g. what happens when we disagree with one another?), reporting lines, and resources (e.g. budget, tools, education, etc.). Why? It provides teams with a shared direction and acceptable ways of working effectively together. A vision should be more than words on paper; it should inspire and motivate. Talk about the best possible outcome for clients because of the work you do. Then get it down on paper and review it as new people join. Make it a living document.

Power Pose

I show this video in Level 2 Great Supervision – Nurturing Collaborative Teams. We spend our first morning talking about communication and this video fits perfectly with being assertive. I also love that she suggests we share it with people who need it most!. Enjoy . . .
Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are | Amy Cuddy | TED Talks

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