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How well do you define the question at hand before rushing off to solve the problem?


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 210,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How well do you define the question at hand before rushing off to solve the problem?

  • Very — I always have clarity on the “why” of the problem. 31.9%
  • Mostly — Sometimes I’ll jump straight into problem solving. 61.3%
  • Not very — I tend to race off and solve before understanding why. 5.9%
  • Not at all — It’s quite often I skip the problem-definition step. 0.9%

Understand the “why” first. Most of you try to understand the “why” before rushing off into problem-solving, but doing so can be hard. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to get the problem solved quickly. This usually means immediate brainstorming, analysis and solution-generation. I’d venture to guess that all of us have rushed off like this once or twice only to find we solved the wrong problem. Get clarity on the “why” before any solution generation begins. Slow your teams down. Understand what your stakeholder wants and why it’s important. The more effectively you do that, the more likely it is your final recommendation will be approved.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He’s the author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”