How to Change Problem Thinking into Problem Solving in Your Weight Loss Practice
— By Karol Clark, MSN, RN
Whether perceived or real, problems can wreak havoc in your weight loss practice. If you desire more instinctive and effective problem-solving behavior from your team, here’s what you can do.
Problem oriented thinking perpetuates negativity and can prevent you from having a problem-solving work culture. This negativity can also turn a pretty great place to work into a workplace filled with poor performance, high absenteeism, undermining behavior and team turnover.
You know what it’s like sometimes: You come into the office ready for a productive day filled with a busy schedule, happy team, satisfied patients and progress towards attaining your prioritized business goals. And then, you are bombarded with various problems that demand your immediate attention such as scheduling issues, billing complaints, team conflict, patient no shows, missing supplies or products, software problems, or worse. By the end of the day, exhausted and frustrated, you wonder why you are dealing with so many problems that adversely affect your positive progress.
Or perhaps you have an office running like a well-oiled machine, but you would like to have more team buy-in and proactive behavior when it comes to solving day to day problems that come up — rather than having to innovate and make most decisions yourself. Either way, the specific mindset requirements and action strategies below will help you empower a high performing problem-solving team that creates a more efficient workplace culture as well.
Mindset Requirements for Creating a Problem-Solving Team:
- Embrace the Fact That Problems Create Opportunity for Change: When you think about it, a problem such as the recent pandemic or a valued employee who is moving out of state creates uncertainty. This uncertainty often results in anxiety or fear. However, problems are also the catalyst for new beginnings and positive change if you (and your team) choose to look at them that way.
- Realize You Choose How You Respond to Problems: Have you ever noticed that two people can be faced with the same problem and yet respond very differently? It’s all in your mindset. An overwhelming problem to one person is simply a challenge to another. It’s your choice.
- Understand the Longer You Focus on the Problem Rather Than the Solution, the Worse It Will Get: If you or your team fall prey to problem-focused thinking you will tend to focus and attract more of what isn’t working. This also leads to blaming others, problem escalation and unnecessary drama. However, if you and your team choose to focus on the solution, this is what you will tend to attract because your mind will be open and free to brainstorm new ideas and problem solve.
- Accept the Discomfort That Comes with Challenges, Growth and Continuous Learning: As we all know, especially in the field of weight loss, change is hard and comes with a great deal of discomfort. However, with each challenge comes growth and motivation to continually improve. Continuous learning will also help you adapt and innovate in the ever-changing world we live in.
- Take the Time to Listen and Collaborate: As a leader in your practice, you may feel as if you need to have all of the answers. However, you will usually create a much better outcome if you take the time to listen to ideas from your team and facilitate collaboration. This, coincidentally, also creates a greater commitment to follow through for a positive outcome.
- Be Sure to Empower, Delegate and Trust at Every Level: Your team wants to do a good job. They want to be a part of the solution and know that they and their opinions are heard. While it may take longer than coming up with the solution yourself, empowering your team in this way, delegating your desired outcome (instead of specific tasks) and trusting them to come up with viable options for solution consideration will serve you well and also improves job satisfaction. Micro-management is usually a negative influence for all involved.
Strategies for Creating a Problem-Solving Team
- Lead by Example: As a leader in your organization you are there for a many important reasons. One reason is that you create calm when there is chaos — and your team will be encouraged to do the same if you lead them by such example. The emotion and ‘vibe’ you share both in celebration and uncertainty will often be mirrored back to you. And as you show such strength builds respect and a desire to support you and the organization in the same way.
- Set Clear Expectations: Your team will be better able to do a great job when expectations are clear. Such expectations are driven by the vision you have for your practice. For problem solving, if they know for every concern, problem or complaint, they are required to present viable solutions, they will start to come to you with options for consideration before you even ask. Over time, with support, trust and clear boundaries, you will find that most will solve the problem before you are even aware they ever happened.
- Follow these Six ‘P’s’ of Problem Solving:
- Problem Validation: Sometimes problem thinking can take over when there is not a valid issue in the first place. Perhaps there is a lack of information or change in priorities that makes the perceived problem a non-issue. Always listen to the concerns of your team and then validate them for solving or allay concerns by sharing why it is not an issue at this time.
- Process Focus: Often, problems arise because you are missing a process or system for managing the issue. Also, it may be a training or communication problem. Before focusing on people as the root cause, examine if there is a clear system and team training process in place that would help solve the problem.
- Probable Causes: Once you have a definitive problem, take the time to brainstorm with your team various possible causes and the desired outcome. This will help you bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
- Plausible Solutions: Next, brainstorm possible solutions or assign a team to create and present possible solutions. It is important to challenge the status quo at this point to accelerate creative thinking. Once you have a list of possible solutions, determine which are not feasible, which are possible, and which should be implemented. Decide what action(s) will best solve the issue.
- Plan: Once you have your solution(s) identified, decide on what action(s) will best solve the issue. Create and communicate an agreed upon plan that specifies exactly what actions need to be taken, who is responsible and dates for completion.
- Process Implementation & Evaluation: Follow-through on your plan and evaluate the outcome. Make modifications as necessary, monitor and report results.
While this may seem like a long process, it can often be managed in a short timeframe. For example, problems such as timely supply ordering can be managed quickly while other issues such as poor billing and collection practices may involve more team members and planning effort. Your valid problem-solving process will be accelerated when team problem solving actions are encouraged, expected and rewarded as such issues arise.