J. R. Richmond, a Midwest retailer for 40 years, believes he can tell what kind of career someone will have by the way he or she approaches a problem. Richmond divides would-be problem solvers into five groups:
- Not my problem. These employees ignore customers and company problems as if those problems didn't touch them personally. If they do manage to get a job, they probably won't keep it long.
- Don't ask me. Some people can't do simple calculations, keep a checkbook or a receipt record, or do basic math. Few employers have the time or means to teach these basic skills.
- What now? Some well-meaning employees can't seem to mature into independent problem solvers. They don't trust their own judgment. As a result, theymbother somebody every two minutes with a problem too big for them to handle. If these employees don't change their ways and take personal responsibility for decision making, they may annoy themselves out of a job.
- Straight liner. Straight liners know how to solve straightforward problems. They can do math and calculations and may be highly skilled professionals. But if the situation requires a new solution or any creativity, they can't handle it. They may keep their job and find a comfortable place in the company. But they shouldn't expect to advance to high levels of management.
- Creative problem solver. Businesses will always have spots for people who can use their creativity to solve problems. Creative problem solvers make themselves irreplaceable.
How to solve the above:
- Not my problem: Pay attention to the needs of your customers, coworkers, and managers. Consider their problems your problems and work to help them find solutions.
- Don't ask me: Learn every skill that comes along. Teach yourself new tasks, techniques, and software programs by studying books, pamphlets, and websites, as well as asking for help from friends and coworkers.
- What now? Take responsibility for decision-making in your life. Build confidence by tackling smaller problems on your own; then gradually increase the complexity of problems that you tackle until you become an independent problem solver.
- Straight liner: Try to expand your creative abilities by brainstorming. Learning to be flexible with new ideas and concepts will help you tackle more challenging problems.
- Creative Problem Solver: Continue to tackle problems head on. Remember to continue to treat all of your company's problems as your own, to hone your professional skills and education, to independently tackle problems, and to think "outside-the-box."