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4 problem-solving techniques every leader should know

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Written by Editor

March 15, 2022


By Usha Maharaj, Executive & Leadership Development Coach


As a leader, you’re responsible for finding solutions to problems big and small. Whether it’s resolving a conflict between team members or coming up with a new strategy for growing the business, your ability to problem-solve is crucial to your success. In this blog post, we’ll explore the process you can follow for solving problems as well as four techniques to help solve problems quickly and efficiently. Whether you are facing an unexpected obstacle or simply looking for ways to improve your problem-solving skills, read on for some helpful tips. 


The problem-solving process

When it comes to problem-solving, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best way to approach a problem will vary depending on the situation, contributing factors, the team, and your personal style. However, there are some steps you can take to help ensure that you’re solving the problem in the most effective way possible. Below are four steps you can follow when solving problems:


Define the problem

The first step to solving any problem is to identify what the problem is. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to take the time to clearly define the problem before trying to find a solution. Ask yourself questions such as:  What is causing the problem? What are the symptoms? What are the potential causes? 


By unpacking these phases, you may more precisely identify the problem:

  • Define the issue: What is the specific problem that needs to be addressed?
  • Identify the factors involved: What are all of the factors that are contributing to the problem?
  • Clarify the goals: What do you want to achieve by solving this problem?
Gather information

Once you’ve defined the problem, you need to gather as much information as possible about it. This includes understanding the factors involved and gathering data to support or disprove your theories about the problem. You can also talk to people who are affected by the problem or who have expertise in the area. The more information you have, the better prepared you’ll be to come up with a solution.


Analyse the information

After you’ve gathered information, it’s time to analyse it and see what patterns emerge. This is where you start to develop possible solutions to the problem. Try to come up with as many solutions as possible and then narrow them down to the best ones. 


Evaluate the solutions

Once you’ve come up with a few possible solutions, it’s time to evaluate them and see which one is the best. This can be done by assessing factors such as feasibility, impact, and costs. You’ll also need to consider how the solution will affect people who are affected by the problem.


Problem-solving techniques

Now that you know the process for solving problems, let’s take a look at problem-solving techniques that can help you do it quickly and efficiently. 

Problem-solving techniques are methods that can help you to solve a problem in a shorter amount of time. There are many different techniques, and the best one for you will depend on the situation and your personal preferences. In this section, we’ll explore four problem-solving techniques that are commonly used by leaders: 



Brainstorming is a technique for generating ideas. It involves coming up with as many ideas as possible, even if they seem crazy or impractical. Get a group of people together who can offer different perspectives, and brainstorm ideas. You can write them down or just say them out loud. This is a great way to get a lot of different ideas and see if any of them can help solve the problem.


SWOT analysis

SWOT analysis is a technique for evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with a problem. This can help you determine the best course of action to take. 


5 Whys

The 5 Whys is a problem-solving technique that involves asking why the problem occurred multiple times. This can help you get to the root of the problem. Start by stating the problem. Next answer the question “why?”. Asking why another four times will help you work through obvious answers and identify the root cause of the problem.  


Decision matrix

A decision matrix is a tool for evaluating possible solutions. It helps you compare and contrast different options so you can choose the best one.  The matrix has two axes: options and criteria. The options are the alternative solutions to your problem, listed as rows in the matrix. The criteria are all of the important considerations that should be considered for each option. The process is then to score every criterion for each of the options to identify the solutions with the highest score.


These are just a few of the problem-solving techniques that leaders can use. By using these techniques, you can enhance your leadership skills and lead more effectively.


Leaders are constantly called upon to solve problems. Fortunately, problem-solving is a skill that one can develop. Following the process above and practising the techniques will increase your chances of finding solutions. If you want to develop your problem-solving skills, identify the processes and techniques that are best suited to you, practice solving problems quickly and efficiently, and measure your development and progress in problem-solving. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others when you’re stuck. And, always remember, there’s more than one way to solve a problem!


Usha Maharaj, of Usha Maharaj Coaching & Training, is a CA(SA) with a passion for people. After spending many years in an executive position in corporate, she realised that her true calling was to help ambitious professionals develop the skills and mindset necessary to level up their careers and live a life they love.

She does this through coaching, mentorship, speaking, and training. Usha also contributes as a Non-Executive Director on boards. Visit Usha at https://ushamaharaj.com/ or connect with her on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook.



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