The First Question Leaders Must Ask at a Problem Solving Meeting

We lead meetings for a number of different reasons.

"Perhaps the most common and best reason for a meeting though is to solve a problem . . . the problem is, that while the venue and the people might be correct, often the process is flawed. It is flawed because one question hasn't clearly been asked and answered."

I am tracking with the words of Kevin Eikenberry above and I continue to track when he identifies the one often unasked and unanswered question as, "What is the problem?"

Not asking and answering this question has lead many a problem solving team afoul. But, after participating in a refresher in interest based problem solving, I offer that this is not the first question leaders must ask at a problem solving meeting. 

Problem-solving meetings require the greatest skills in the meeting leader, who must work together with often conflicting participants to jointly develop a plan that will solve a problem. Identifying the problem properly will only get you so far if each member of the team is not committed to solving it.

Problem solving requires communication and trust. Yes, there will always be the inevitable conflict but a group can embrace the conflict to solve a problem if everyone is committed to seeking to understand what is being communicated . . . and to be impacted by it.

So before you lead a team in identifying and solving a problem, ask each member of the team, and yourself, this question, "Are you willing to be impacted by what is being communicated to you?"

Said another way, "Are you open to changing your mind?" Seeking to understand what is being communicated and then remaining open to changing your mind is a key component of true active listening and sets the stage for authentic collaboration and problem solving.

We can argue over power and rights but only when a group is prepared and committed to focus on interests can true problem solving occur - no matter what the problem happens to be.

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