Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dealing with Problems is a Matter of Perspective

In his book Developing the Leaders Around You, John C. Maxwell quotes Raiders owner Al Davis: "A great leader doesn't treat problems as special, he treats them as normal." Maxwell goes on to emphasize that in an imperfect world problems will occur regularly. While we as educational leaders should strive for excellence, we must expect problems. Maxwell argues that "problems almost always create opportunities - to learn, grow and improve."

In my own experience as an educational leader, I often find myself at the end of the day or at the end of the week frustrated by all the problems that have popped up that require either my attention or the attention of the leaders on my team. After reading and reflecting on Maxwell, I realize these problems aren't special, unique or unusual. In reality, each problem that arises is an opportunity for my organization, my school, to improve. In order to realize that improvement, I must excel at solving those problems. Additionally, the leaders around me must excel at problem-solving.

Maxwell says leaders must do four things to become good problem solvers:
  1. They must anticipate problems before they occur.
  2. They must maintain a positive attitude while they occur.
  3. They must use all their resources to solve them as quickly as possible so they cease to occur.
  4. They must learn from them so the same problems do not occur again.

I've given this a great deal of thought and I believe Maxwell is right on about problems and problem-solving. Perhaps the greatest challenge in following Maxwell's advice lies with point #2 (maintain a positive attitude while problems occur). Once we come to accept problems not only as part of everyday life in an organization but also as part of the growth process, maintaining a positive attitude about problems should be less of a challenge and less frustrating.

I'm going to share these ideas this week with the leaders around me so we can help one another accept problems, problem solve, and hold one another accountable for Maxwell's four points above.

Material above taken from Developing the Leaders Around You, John C. Maxwell, pp. 149-150.

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