When do you deal with a problem and the consequences of the timing?

Dealing with problems is part and parcel of being an executive. Your team relies on you to recognise, confront, and resolve issues as effectively and efficiently as possible so that they can undertake their tasks with as little friction as possible.

How well do you recognise a problem? How do you deal with it?

Recognising a problem can be tricky. Sometimes we are in denial and don’t want to face the fact that there is a problem. Other times, we might not even be aware that there is a problem.

A real-world example

A coaching client of mine who is a commercial manager, responsible for managing a team of contract administrators. A significant challenge they are facing, which many businesses face currently, is around resources and needing to hold on to talent due to the challenges of finding good quality team members. As a result, they have not been following up with contractors on the delivery of tasks for fear they might feel over-scrutinised and micro-managed, leading to them leaving the business. However, the issue is that they still weren’t completing their tasks and were failing to meet deadlines. The knock-on effect of this was causing significant financial issues for the company. The contracts are not being let quickly, causing delays on site, increased material costs, and blowing out project budgets (the market has shifted significantly).

Delaying fixing one problem due to apprehension about the potential backlash cost them more in time, money, stress and colleagues and made people doubt their ability to manage.

The lesson

How long do you take to respond when you have recognised a problem?

If you recognise that there is a problem, you need to decide how to deal with it. This can be difficult, as you need to weigh up all the pros and cons of each option. Should you deal with it now or wait until later? There is no easy answer, and it really depends on the specific situation.

What are the consequences of your decision?

If you deal with a problem right away, you can nip it in the bud and prevent it from getting worse. However, this may not give you enough time to evaluate the extent of the problem, and you may not have enough information to deal with it properly.

If you wait to deal with a problem, you risk it snowballing and becoming much more significant than it originally was. It can also create frustration between the people involved as you may seem to be inactive in the problem.

So what do you do?

You need to take a balanced approach;

Recognising the problem quicker, understanding the context of the problem and creating a plan to address, resolve or mitigate it. Becoming a problem solver rather than a problem avoider.

Regardless of the problem, you always need to take the time to understand it as best as possible. You cannot properly plan for a resolution without completely understanding its impact and your team’s involvement.

Communication is also a pivotal aspect of dealing with a problem, especially when it impacts people on your team. If you need to take time to evaluate the problem and come up with a solution, you need to be transparent with your team that you have acknowledged it and that you plan on dealing with it. It can also give you a chance to gain further context on the issue, and it gives your team an opportunity to contribute to the resolution.

Regardless of your level of experience or how long you have been in your role, facing a problem is complex. As an executive, it can be incredibly isolating as you may feel pressure to fix it as quickly as possible with as little friction and help as possible.

If you are interested in developing your problem-solving skills, book a call with me, and we can discuss tailoring our executive coaching to your needs.