How Do Great Leaders Solve Problems? By Asking a Question, and Then Shutting Up - Deepstash

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The status quo with leadership

The status quo with leadership

When a question comes up, you jump in. Leaders are supposed to have all the answers. When a situation is unclear, you jump in. Leaders are supposed provide clarity and focus.

When you're in charge and a problem occurs, you jump in. Leaders are supposed to fix problems. 

But do you always have the best answer? The perfect insight? The best solution?

Usually not.


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A legendary music producer‘s way to solve problems

A legendary music producer‘s way to solve problems

Rick Rubin, the former president of CBS Records, and a legendary music producer described how his problem-solving process evolved:

In the old days, I would say, "OK, here's the problem, here's how we're going to fix it, let's fix it," and we move on.

Now, I'll say, "Here's the problem. What are we going to do?"


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And the results?

And the results?

"Nine times out of 10, the solution the artist comes up with is better than the solution I had. I usually have a solution in the background, just in case, but more often than not ... through discussion, a better decision comes up than my knee-jerk reaction."


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Rubin has a simple approach to solve problems

Rubin has a simple approach to solve problems

Rubin's approach is to simply present a problem, optimally in a sentence or two. You can too. For example:

  • "We're struggling to meet ship dates. What do you think we should do differently?"
  • "Our error rate is up significantly. What do you think we should do to improve quality?"
  • "I don't feel like I'm connecting with certain people on my team. If you were me, what would you do?"


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It leads to empowerment and inclusiveness

It leads to empowerment and inclusiveness

By asking a question and keeping your own ideas or opinions to yourself, you accomplish two things. One, you truly give other people the opportunity to be heard. Even if you don't go with their input, still: They walk away feeling they were able to contribute, and that their opinion is valued.


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The bottom line?

The bottom line?

Bottom line?

You already know what you know. What you need to know is what other people know.

So describe a problem, ask for input, and then stay quiet and listen.

You never know what you might learn.


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