A More Holistic Approach to Problem Solving

When you’re stuck on a problem, it often helps to step back and look at the bigger picture. You see things differently and discover new solutions. What I ask participants in my Total Leadership program to do is take the “four-way-view” – the interaction among work, home, community, and self – and come up with creative ways of bringing them together into a more coherent whole. I’ve found that when you do this, you see opportunities for change to which you were previously blind. The happy result: improved performance and satisfaction all the way around.

As an example, I was speaking the other day to a client (let’s call her Susan) who, at the end of one of our planning meetings for an upcoming project, told me that she was leaving the organization and moving. She wouldn’t be able to continue as the project manager for an exciting program we’re about to launch. She was relocating because her husband’s job required it. She was dismayed at not being able to see this project to its end, a project that holds great promise for being a potential groundbreaking approach to leadership development in a religious community.

Being able to be open to talking with advisors you trust is an underappreciated art. My client, by sharing her concern and asking for input from me, made room for us to brainstorm. She wanted to be able to continue on this project, which was clearly important for her career and for her own sense of personal achievement, not to mention useful economically for her family and, as a contribution to building leadership capacity in a Philadelphia religious community, an act of citizenship as well. And her organization was going to have to train someone new to fill her shoes. This would be costly, on many dimensions. To me, a kind of outsider (though with a vested interest, for sure), it was easy to see a possible solution: stay on as a consultant to the organization with project management responsibility for this project, and commute as needed to Philadelphia. Later in the day she approached her boss, who loved the idea. She’s now in consultation with her family, and my hope is that it’s going to work out for everyone.

What’s clear to one person is often completely opaque to another. Between the two of us, Susan and I came up with a new option, one that has the potential to benefit performance all domains of her life, a four-way win that addressed every part of her life. You have to be looking for four-way wins to find them.

Have you discovered a way to produce a four-way win recently? Tell us about it so we can benefit from what you learned.

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