“Don’t be a problem. Be a problem solver.”
Me, to my own children
I have always been a problem solver. When presented with a problem, I will try to solve it. While presenting a workshop to colleagues last week, I encountered some other problem solvers.
I posed a math word problem in order to model a fishbowl strategy. Teachers were deeply engaged in the problem solving process when I stopped them to move onto another strategy. They begrudgingly moved on to the next problem without having solved the fishbowl example.
I joked about the teachers emailing me the answer later in the day. Of course, I received two emails later in the day with correct solutions to the fishbowl problem. I appreciated the time and effort that the teachers put into solving the problem. Even though they didn’t have to finish solving the problem, they did so because they are problem solvers.
My goal as an administrator is create a solutions based culture, one in which students and staff work through problems in order to find a solution. Sometimes, a student or staff member will present a problem without being willing to come up with a solution. This often comes across as complaining. In a solutions based culture, critical and constructive feedback is welcome, as long as the person critiquing is also providing a viable alternative or solution to a problem.
It is important to make meeting sessions and conversations all about solutions versus complaints. This means working through problems, discussing them, brainstorming solutions, trying out those solutions and revising if necessary. Sometimes, a solution might work for a little while, or sometimes, not at all. The most important part of a solutions based culture, however, is a willingness to solve problems, to dive in and not give up until a solution emerges.
I am glad that I modeled the problem solving process last week, and am equally excited that my colleagues participated without giving up. Now, I know that we are well on our way to becoming problem solvers.
Click here for specific strategies to help establish a solutions based culture.