6 Remarkably Simple Steps to Becoming a Real Problem-Solver

History's greatest leaders may have complained from time to time, but they all built legacies around their innate abilities to find and execute solutions to their biggest gripes.

learn more about Peter Gasca

By Peter Gasca


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What is the biggest problem we have in business today? Lack of capital and resources? Uncertain markets and currencies? The possibility of Donald Trump as our next president?

I would argue the most significant problem we face today is too many people who find problems. They are called "problem identifiers," or complainers.

Unfortunately, I see this all day, in conversations online, among friends in coffee shops and even casually by someone on the phone (sometimes it is difficult not to eavesdrop). These problem identifiers disguise themselves as heedful social servants, more than happy to offer up an opinion on a particular matter and why it is a menace to our community -- or just their immediate work space. They typically know exactly who to blame and the process by which it became such as huge burden to society.

Related: Why Entrepreneurs Who Complain Are Setting Themselves Up to Fail

What they rarely offer, however, is a clear, reasonable and responsible solution.

History's greatest leaders may have complained from time to time, but they all built legacies around their innate abilities to find and execute solutions to their biggest gripes. To follow in their footsteps and avoid being the Debbie Downer of your organization or circle of friends, think before you speak and follow these tips to become a better problem-solver.

1. Determine the scope of the problem.

If the problem is something that is out of your control, such as international monetary policy, traffic lights or Donald Trump's latest tweet, then it is best to let it be. Focus on the issues you have some control over and can make an impact toward changing.

2. Stay objective.

When approaching an issue, try to leave your ego and biases aside. Examine the problem from an objective point of view, considering the pros and cons as well as all views of other parties affected by it.

3. Ask questions.

Problems are often rooted in miscommunication. Before you jump all over an issue, ask questions -- many of them -- and determine if you simply may have misunderstood the problem at hand.

4. Get to the root problem.

If you are asking the right questions of the right people, and examining a problem objectively, there is a very good chance that the issue you have identified is more a symptom of a much more significant problem. Dig deep and find the root problem first, then begin making a list of actions you can take to resolve it.

Related: When Looking for a Solution, Stop Staring at the Problem

5. Narrow your options.

Coming up with countless solutions to a problem can be easy, especially if you are trying to hedge your bet. But risk takers don't hedge. They leverage the resources available to them -- their experiences and networks -- and narrow their solutions down to a top choice. The reason is so the proper energy, attention and resources can be devoted to solving the issue, and the proposed solution will less likely be abandoned simply because it does not go exactly as planned.

6. Frame the problem in the form of a solution.

The difference between someone who leads teams in finding solutions and those that are just complaining is the ability to phrase a problem as a simple and obvious action.

For instance, a problem identifier will say, "Our revenues are falling, and we only have a few weeks of operational capital from which to work."

While a problem solver will say, "We need to divert marketing resources to an aggressive social-media campaign to drive traffic to our ecommerce site immediately."

Which one are you more likely to follow?

The adage that misery loves company is a powerful and toxic recipe for an office. While you may never snuff out complainers entirely, you can lead from the top and set an example as a respected and dependable problem-solver in your organization.

And, for what it's worth, I might argue there is nothing wrong with poking fun at Donald Trump's latest tweet -- as long as you educate yourself and vote. Otherwise, don't expect to get into a substantial political debate with someone who is too busy changing the world in other ways.

Related: When Faced With Adversity, Focus on Solutions, Not More Problems

Peter Gasca

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Management and Entrepreneur Consultant

Peter Gasca is an author and consultant at Peter Paul Advisors. He also serves as Executive-in-Residence and Director of the Community and Business Engagement Institute at Coastal Carolina University. His book, One Million Frogs', details his early entrepreneurial journey.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

The Dark Side of Pay Transparency — And What to Do If You Find Out You're Being Underpaid
Thinking of a Career Change? Here Are 4 Steps You Can Take to Get There.
A Founder Who Bootstrapped Her Jewelry Business With Just $1,000 Now Sees 7-Figure Revenue Because She Knew Something About Her Customers Nobody Else Did
Everything You Need to Know About Franchise Law

What Is a Brand Personality? Here's How to Develop One.

Connect with your audience on a deeper level by giving and cultivating your brand a personality. Read here how to do so.

Starting a Business

How To Sell on Etsy in 2023: A Comprehensive Guide

Want to start selling your handmade goods online? This article outlines how to start and grow your business using Etsy.

Business News

'Crying Northwestern Kid' Turned His Viral Fan Moment Into a Successful Harvard Admissions Essay. He Says the Experience Taught Him About Empathy.

Six years ago, Phillips was watching No. 8 Northwestern take on No. 1 Gonzaga during March Madness when he became a meme.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.