Problem Solving

You Can't Let Your Problems Be a Problem



You can measure a leader by the problems he tackles. He always looks for ones his own size.

—John C. Maxwell


The measure of success is notwhether you have a tough problem to deal with,

but whether it is the same problem you had last year.

—John Foster Dulles, Former Secretary of State




The   Small-Town   Merchant Who   Could



The founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton, has been called many things, including enemy of small-town America and destroyer of Main Street merchants. "Quite a few smaller stores have gone out of business during the time of Wal-Mart's growth," conceded Walton. "Some people have tried to turn it into this big controversy, sort of a 'Save the Small Town Merchants' deal, like they were whales or whooping cranes or something." The truth is that Walton was a small-town, Main Street merchant of the type he is criticized for displacing. The only difference is that he was an excellent leader who was able to solve problems and change rather than go out of business.


Sam Walton was born in Kingfish, Oklahoma, and grew up in Columbia, Missouri. He demonstrated leadership in high school when he was elected student-body president, led his football team to an undefeated season and state championship as its quarterback, and then performed the same feat with the basketball team as its five-foot-nine-inch floor leader.


After graduating from college and working for a few years, Walton served in the army during World War II. When he got out, he selected a career in retail, the field he loved, and along with his wife picked the small town of Bentonville, Arkansas, in which to live. That's where they opened a Walton's Five and Dime Variety Store.


The business did well, partly because of Walton's hustle, but also because he had shown foresight in making his store self-service, a new concept at the time. He worked hard and continued to expand. By 1960, he had fifteen stores. But that was also about the time when competitor Herb Gibson brought discount stores into northwest Arkansas. They competed directly with Walton's variety stores.


"We really had only two choices," said Walton, "stay in the variety store business and be hit hard by the discounting wave, or open a discount store. So I started running all over the country, studying the concept... We opened Wal-Mart Number 1 on July 2, 1962, in Rogers, Arkansas, right down the road from Bentonville."


Walton soon added additional stores. His Wal-Mart chain was small compared to some of the others begun around the same time—Kmart, Target, and Woolco—but it was going strong. And that led to the next problem. Walton realized that he needed to improve the stores' planning and distribution. He and his people solved the problem by creating central distribution centers. That, along with computerization, allowed them to order in bulk, keep track of each store's needs, and distribute to them quickly and efficiently. And when the outlay for new equipment and buildings for the new distribution centers created a heavy debt load, it was merely another problem to be solved. Walton did it by taking the company public in 1970.


When he died in 1992, the company operated more than 1,700 stores in forty-two states and Mexico. Sam Walton, the small-town variety store owner, had become America's number one retailer. And since his death, the company has continued strongly, its leadership still solving problems as they arise and keeping Wal-Mart and the other retail chain, Sam's Club, moving forward.



Fleshing   It   Out



Effective leaders, like Sam Walton, always rise to a challenge. That's one of the things that separates winners from whiners. While other retailers complained about the competition, Walton rose above it by solving his problems with creativity and tenacity.


No matter what field a leader is in, he will face problems. They are inevitable for three reasons. First, we live in a world of growing complexity and diversity. Second, we interact with people. And third, we cannot control all the situations we face.


Leaders with good problem-solving ability demonstrate five qualities:


1. They Anticipate Problems

Since problems are inevitable, good leaders anticipate them. Anyone who expects the road to be easy will continually find himself in trouble. I heard a story about David Livingstone, the missionary to Africa, that illustrates the kind of attitude leaders need. A mission organization wanted to send helpers to Dr. Livingstone, so its leader wrote, "Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to send other men to join you." Livingstone replied, "If you have men who will come only if

they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come even if there is no road at all." If you keep your attitude positive but plan for the worst, you'll find yourself in a good position to solve problems that come your way.


2. They Accept the Truth

People respond to problems in these ways: they refuse to accept them; they accept them and then put up with them; or they accept them and try to make things better. Leaders must always do the latter.

Broadcaster Paul Harvey said, "In times like these it is good to remember that there have always been times like these." No leader can simultaneously have his head in the sand and navigate his people through troubled waters. Effective leaders face up to the reality of a situation.


3. They See the Big Picture

Leaders must continually see the big picture. They cannot afford to be overwhelmed by emotion. Nor can they allow themselves to get so bogged down in the details that they lose sight of what's important. Author Alfred Armand Montapert wrote, "The majority see the obstacles; the few see the objectives; history records the successes of the latter, while oblivion is the reward of the former."


4. They Handle One Thing at a Time

Richard Sloma has this advice: "Never try to solve all the problems at once—make them line up for you one-by-one." The leaders who get into trouble most often are the ones who are overwhelmed by the sheer size or volume of their troubles and then dabble at problem solving. If you're faced with lots of problems, make sure you really solve the one you're working on before moving on to the next one.


5. They Don't Give Up a Major Goal When They're Down

Effective leaders understand the peak-to-peak principle. They make major decisions when they are experiencing a positive swing in their leadership, not during the dark times. As NFL fullback Bob Christian says, "I never decide whether it's time to retire during training camp." He knows not to give up when he is in the valley.


Reflecting    on


Author George Matthew Adams stated, "What you think means more than anything else in your life. More than what you earn, more than where you live, more than your social position, and more than what anyone else may think about you." Every problem introduces you to yourself. It shows you how you think and what you're made of.

When you come face-to-face with a problem, how do you react? Do you ignore it and hope it will go away? Do you feel powerless to solve it? Have you had such bad experiences trying to solve problems in the past that you've just given up? Or do you tackle them willingly? The ability to solve problems effectively comes from experience facing and overcoming obstacles. Each time you solve another problem, you get a little better at the process. But if you never try, fail, and try again, you'll never be good at it.


Bringing   It   Home 

To improve your problem solving, do the following:



Look for trouble. If you've been avoiding problems, go out looking for them. You'll only get better if you gain experience dealing with them. Find situations that need fixing, come up with several viable solutions, and then take them to a leader with good problem-solving experience. You'll learn from his decisions how he thinks when handling difficulties.


Develop a method. Some people have a hard time solving problems because they don't know how to tackle them. Try using the TEACH process:


T ime—spend time to discover the real issue. E xposure —find out what others have done. A ssistance —have your team study all angles. C reativity —brainstorm multiple solutions. H it it—implement the best solution.


Surround yourself with problem solvers. If you aren't a good problem solver, bring others onto your team who are. They will immediately complement your weaknesses, and you will also learn from them.


Daily   Take-Away


Boxer Gene Tunney won the world heavyweight championship by beating Jack Dempsey. Most people don't know that when Tunney started his boxing career, he was a power puncher. But before turning pro, he broke both hands. His doctor and manager told him he would never be a world champion as a result. But that didn't deter him.


"If I can't become a champion as a puncher," he said, "I'll make it as a boxer." He learned and he became one of the most skillful boxers ever to become champion. Never allow others to put obstacles in the pathway to your dreams.

………………..


MUCH  OF  THIS  IS  NOT  SPECIFICALLY  APPLICABLE  TO  PASTOR-MINISTERS  OF  THE  GOSPEL;  THEY  DO  THOUGH  ENGAGE  OFTEN  IN  TRYING  TO  HELP  SOLVING  PROBLEMS  THAT  PEOPLE  IN  THEIR  CARE,  BRING  TO  THEM  FOR  SOME  OVERALL  GUIDANCE.  IN  THAT  SENSE  PASTORS  HAVE  TO  KNOW  SOME  POINTS  OF  SOLVING  PROBLEMS  FOR  PEOPLE;  SEEING  THE  PROBLEM,  AND  SENDING  THE  PERSON   TO  SOMEONE  MORE  QUALIFIED  IN  THE  SPECIFIC  DETAILS  OF  THAT  PROBLEM.  THE  PASTOR  HAS  TO  KNOW  AND  ADMIT  THE  PROBLEM  BROUGHT  TO  HIM,  IS  OUT  OF  HIS  LEAGUE  OF  TRAINING,  BUT  MUST  HAVE  THE  WISDOM  TO  SEND  THE  PERSON/S  TO  SOMEONE  MORE  QUALIFIED.  YOU  DO  NOT  USUALLY  GET  THE  INFO  ON  SOLAR  PANELS  BY  GOING  TO  A  BAKER. IF  THE  BAKER  DID  HAVE  SOMEONE  ASKING  HIM  ABOUT  SOLAR  PANELS,  THE  BAKER  WOULD  SAY,  “I  KNOW  SUCH  AND  SUCH  PEOPLE  WHO  ARE  EXPERTS  ON  THAT  SUBJECT.”  SO  YOU  COULD  SAY  THE  BAKER  IS  HELPING  TO  SOLVE  THEIR  PROBLEMS. 

A  PASTORS  HAS  TO  BE  GOOD  AT  DELEGATING   OUT  TO  OTHERS,  WHAT  THEY  ARE  STRONG  IN,  FOR  A  BETTER  FUNCTION  OF  THE  CONGREGATION,  AND  OF  THE  CARE  OF  THE  BUILDING,  IF  IT  IS  NOT  A  HOUSE  CHURCH.

PHYSICAL  PROBLEMS  IN  A  PHYSICAL  CHURCH  BUILDING,  OVER  TIME  AND  WARE,  NEED  FIXING…..SOMETIME  NEWER  THINGS  HAVE  REPLACED  THE  OLD  ONES.  THE  PASTORS  SHOULD  BE  ASKING  WHAT  IS  THE  LATEST  TECHNOLOGY  IN   THIS  AREA;  A  MEETING  SHOULD  BE  CALLED  WHERE  NEW  TECHNOLOGY, AND  ANGLES  AND  COSTS  CONSIDERED;  AND  FINALLY  WHO  AND  WHY  IS  THE  COMPANY  BEST  TO  HIRE  TO  GET  THE  JOB  DONE,  WITH  DECENT  PAY  FOR  A  GOOD  DAYS  WORK.


Keith Hunt