How to Solve Problems as a Team

Getting your team to help solve problems together will tend to yield better solutions and greater buy-in when it comes to implement the solutions. In some of our leadership modules, we use a survival simulation so that leaders can experience, in real time, the pitfalls that impact the decisions teams make.

There are two dynamics going on at the same time when it comes to team problem solving: The rational, logical part of solving the problem and the interpersonal dynamic at play with the team.

If the rational side of the problem solving isn’t done well, the solution itself won’t be effective. If the interpersonal side of the problem solving is lacking, the acceptance of the solution won’t occur and the team won’t buy-in.

In order to improve the rational side of problem solving, it’s important for the team to simplify the problem, keeping in mind that a problem well defined is half-solved. Most teams don’t do a good job of defining the problem in the first place and then the team ends up symptom-solving instead of problem solving.

On the interpersonal side of problem solving, the leader needs to focus on managing two different dynamics in the group:

First, the group will have a tendency to go with ideas and solutions that are stated with greater confidence — that leads to the most confident, assertive people in the group influencing the others, even when their ideas are not the best.

Second, a quieter team member might have an excellent opinion but because they can’t express it well, the team will tend to discard it. Therefore, the leader needs to ensure that some ideas are supported before being discarded and that strongly opinionated team members do not overpower the others.

The leader’s goal is to get the highest quality ideas and solutions to be accepted and adopted by the work group. By managing the participation to ensure that every team member feels included and by encouraging a healthy discussion where ideas can be supported and debated, the leader will increase the chance of getting both the best solution and have the team be committed to the implementation of that solution.

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