Saturday, February 26, 2011

Problem Solving Skills, Part 2

Last week we identified the four steps in the problem solving process.  I hope you found them a good starting place for becoming better at problem solving.  This week, I’m going to give you the specific questions you want to ask yourself for each of these four steps.  Knowing what to ask is essential to becoming an effective problem solver.  So, be sure to use this list each time a problem arises that you want/need to address.

1.       Identify the Problem

a.      Describe the problem
i.                    What is/is not happening?
ii.                 What occurs as a result of the problem?
iii.               Where does it/it not happen?
iv.                When does it/it not happen?
v.                  What occurs just before that triggers it?
vi.                When did the problem first happen?
vii.             Who is/is not involved?
viii.           Who is affected?
ix.                Who is responsible?

b.      Identify the cause of the problem
i.                    What are the possible causes?
ii.                 What are the probable causes?
iii.               What cause is most likely to be the actual one?

2.      Identify the Desired Outcome
a.      What do you want things to be like?
b.      What do you want to prevent, limit, or fix?
c.       Do you want short-term or long-term effects?

3.      Determine Options

a.      What possible options exist?
b.      Which option will most likely get the desired result?
i.                    What makes this option workable?
ii.                 What barriers exist to implementing this option?
iii.               What makes this option less than perfect?
c.       Which option will leave the fewest negative outcomes?
i.                    What makes this option workable?
ii.                 What barriers exist to implementing this option?
iii.               What makes this option less than perfect?
d.      Which option can be carried out effectively with the available resources?
i.                    What makes this option workable?
ii.                  What barriers exist to implementing this option?
iii.                What makes this option less than perfect?
e.      Which option has the fewest barriers?
i.                     What makes this option workable?
ii.                   What barriers exist to implementing this option?
iii.                 What makes this option less than perfect?

4.      Determining the Action

a.      Which option is best?
i.                   What makes this option workable?
ii.                 What makes this option less than perfect?
b.      What barriers exist to implementing this option and what will be done to overcome them?
c.       When will this action be taken?
d.      How will this action be implemented?
e.      Whop will be involved in implementing this action?
f.        What will be done to follow-up to make sure the action produced the desired results?

Using this list of question when solving problems will enhance your confidence and allow others to see you as the effective problem solver you have become!

Copyright 2011 Lynn Borenius Brown

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Problem Solving Skills, Part 1

Although each day we are faced with the need to solve problems, few of us have ever had the opportunity to actually learn how to effectively do this.  And, the result is usually frustration, anger, and stress.  So, let’s take a bit of time to gain understanding of what is involved in solving problems.  First, the four steps in this process are:

Identify the problem - Few of us actually take time to identify what the problem is.  We are usually in such a hurry to make the problem disappear because we become uncomfortable as soon as a problem arises.  Therefore, first take the time to determine what is actually happening, exactly what the problem is.

Desired outcome - Since we are usually in a hurry to make the problem go away, we don’t even care what the outcome is except that we want there to no longer be a problem.  We don’t think about what it is we want to happen, just what we don’t want to happen.  Therefore, it is important to determine what you want the outcome to be.

Options - We tend to stop looking at solutions as soon as we come up with one.  The issue is that the chances of this one solution being the best are low.  So, give yourself time to brainstorm, to come up with many options.

Action - In order to make the problem go away, we take action, any action.  We are not particularly concerned about the repercussions.  We just want the whole thing to disappear.  Another reaction to problems is to avoid taking action due to being unsure regarding which action is best.  So then nothing happens.  It is important to assess the options you have come up with and determine which one is best.  Then act on it.

This week, notice how you have been addressing problems and use these four steps to begin becoming more effective.  You’ll find you feel more relaxed, confident, and successful!

Copyright 2011 Lynn Borenius Brown

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Communication Skills, Part 2

Congratulations!  You have been working at improving your ability to listen, understand, and provide feedback before moving the conversation forward by expressing.  Now, let’s move on.

Even if we are very competent when it comes to expressing, listening, understanding and providing feedback, there is another aspect to communication that, although it is very important, is often ignored.  This is the frame of reference of the person with whom we are attempting to communicate.

This frame of reference is the filtering system each of us has when communicating with others.  Here are thirteen components that can, and do, affect the interpretation of what is being said:

1.       Age
2.      Attitude
3.      Background
4.      Beliefs
5.      Education
6.      Experience
7.      Interests
8.     Knowledge
9.      Memories
10.  Occupation
11.   Prejudices
12.  Values
13.  Gender

All of these components affect and can interfere with how we interpret what we are hearing.  So, take some time to address these components for yourself – become aware of how each of these affect you when you are attempting to communicate (listen, understand, and provide feedback) with someone.  Once you have acquired this significant self-awareness, be sure to always keep it in mind when listening.  And, be sensitive to these components in others when you are sharing your thoughts, ideas, and opinions with others (expressing).  It will make you a much better communicator.   

Copyright 2011 Lynn Borenius Brown

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tomorrow's Teaching Topic and The Daily Thought

Good evening to everyone!  A quick post to let you know that tomorrow's topic will be Communication Skills, Part 2.  We will be discussing the significance of a person's frame of reference when communicating.  This often ignored topic is vital to effective communication.

Also, a reminder that you are welcome to join the Daily Thought list to receive an inspirational message each morning in your inbox.  To sign up, just go to the website, click on the Daily Thoughts page, and sign up:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Communication Skills, Part 1

To communicate is to give and receive information.  It is always an interchange – meaning, it is passage from one to another.  This interchange implies that the receiver acquires an understanding of what was sent so there is a sharing. 

Using this definition of communicating, we discover that more often than not, while we have said something to another person and they physically heard it, there is no guarantee that what transpired could be called communication.  After all, just because someone heard what you said doesn’t mean they know what you said.  And since all human beings want to be understood, it is a good idea to spend a bit of time addressing the topic of communication.

We’ll start by discussing the four aspects of communication:

Expressing is the verbalization the individual makes which starts the communication process.  It is a verbalization that expresses an idea or concept that the individual wishes to share with another person.  Getting out the message.

Listening is what the receiver does in order to start his/her part of the communication.  Listening is the first important link in the communication process.  Hearing the message.

Understanding is what the listener has to have accomplished in order for the communication process to continue forward.  Both the sender and the receiver must be patient and allow for understanding to occur before the process may proceed forward.  Understanding is knowing what the sender was expressing.  Understanding the message.

Feedback is a verbalization by the receiver which pertains to what was expressed that moves the communication forward.  It is not expressing.  That comes after feedback.  Moving the communication forward.

Unfortunately what usually occurs is that someone expresses and while that person is expressing, the receiver, instead of listening, is planning their reply.  As a result there is little chance that the receiver will actually understand what the person expressing is attempting to communicate.  Most conversations are a series of individuals expressing – a dueling monologue of sorts.

So, take time this week to notice where within the four aspects of communication most of your conversations break down.  Are you merely hearing the other person talking but not paying attention to what is being said (not listening)?  Are you listening but not taking the time to make sure you understand what is being expressed?  Are you understanding but not providing feedback before replying with your own ideas?  And, where are you finding the break down in communication with those you are attempting to communicate? 

Once you become aware of the path each communication needs to take, you’ll become better at this skill.

Copyright 2011 Lynn Borenius Brown

Friday, February 4, 2011

The February 5 Teaching Topic

Tomorrow's topic is Communication Skills, Part 1.  We'll be discussing the basic aspects of communication.  Whenever I have taught this topic, so many people have let me know they wished they'd had the opportunity to learn this information years ago since it is so useful in life.  Talk with you tomorrow!