Everyday leadership: Best leaders brainstorm about all possibilities

I am in the process of completely revising my book, “The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success,” for its third printing. In this book, I define leadership with five modes including, the Enabler of Change, Respectful Communicator, Developer of People and Teams, Manager of Conflict, and Master of Problem-Solving Tools.

The Master of Problem-Solving Tools is a very important role for the facilitative leader and employs a four-step problem-solving process. As a problem solver, the facilitative leader develops action-oriented solutions rather than placing blame on others. He or she focuses on using problem-solving tools in all four phases of the problem-solving process.

First, in the problem definition stage, Open Brainstorming, Round Robin Idea Generation, the Affinity Diagram, the Delphi Technique, and the Process Map are all useful to clarify the issue at hand. Prioritization tools that follow the problem definition stage are Multivoting, Payoff Matrix, and Nominal Group Technique. The prioritization tools are used at several phases of the problem-solving process.

The second stage is problem analysis. Some tools used to analyze the problem are Force Field Analysis, Cause and Effect, and the Five Whys. To accomplish the solution identification stage, stage number three, some of the same tools used in the definition stage are useful. During the solution implementation stage, PERT, Gantt, and Flow Charts are helpful.

Finally, a Stakeholder Commitment Chart can assist in evaluating any political roadblocks that may arise among other organizational members. Facilitative leaders also practice effective meeting management techniques. Use of meeting agendas, meeting evaluations, and meeting minutes can continually improve the facilitative leader’s ability to use problem-solving tools.

In my book, I describe how to appropriately use all of the above tools and offer an example of how the tools fit together sequentially with a real-life problem. This process is not a quick fix. It takes time and human resources to go through each step. With all problems, data needs to be gathered at every stage.

In the book, “Great by Choice,” Collins and Hansen (2011) suggest that the best leaders utilize data collected from repeated experiments upon which to base their major initiatives. They have a disciplined approach moving at a steady pace in good times and bad. A good problem solver anticipates issues and employs a systematic analysis of the situation and is ready when and if the situation erupts.

Every company faces threats, opportunities, and challenges. The best leaders capitalize upon luck when it occurs but don’t become complacent. In today’s environment, there are so many things that impact our business it is hard to identify where to start. I suggest the leader get his/her key players together and brainstorm all the challenges at hand and those that might occur and then prioritize them. Next, initiate the problem-solving process to create actions that will optimize future efforts. The problem-solving process is not just something nice to do. It may be the key to the survival of an organization.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s new book, “Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons,” visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.