Organisations can only show improvements when they recognise where they’re going wrong and consistently look for ways to solve their problems. For many, this requires a complete culture overhaul, which has to begin at the top and trickle down to the rest of the team.

Harvard research found that teams are better and quicker at solving problems when they’re cognitively diverse. In other words, teams that demonstrate a blend of skills like discipline maintenance, collaboration and the ability to invent new approaches, are most successful.

Unlocking your team’s capacity to solve problems begins with you. The core factor is to create an environment that is psychologically safe. Psychological safety is the understanding that one is free to voice their beliefs, ideas or concerns without the fear of being humiliated or “shut down”. If this doesn’t exist, a smaller percentage of the team will feel confident enough to contribute and defensive behaviour sets in.

Be Open to Talking About Problems

The most successful teams view problems with a kind of curiosity, rather than avoidance. The ability to recognise and admit that there’s a problem - without judgement or blame - is the only way to bring them out into the open for the entire team to discuss.

Leaders that point the finger rather than concentrating on finding the root of the problem are building an uncomfortable environment that is averse to discussing issues. A culture that embraces continuous improvement regularly identifies problems and seeks out the root cause, and understands the importance of communication, transparency and ongoing training.

Don’t Ignore the Smaller Problems

Larger organisations tend to prioritise the large problems in front of them, such as outsourcing processes or implementing new software. That’s important, but progressive businesses cannot ignore the smaller problems, either.

It’s these everyday problems that are often more critical to the effective running of an organisation. Well-oiled processes and the ability to be flexible when things don’t go to plan aid businesses in adding value to customers. Staying abreast of this requires systematic methods that are regularly checked, to bring small problems to light.

For this to happen, leaders need to step away from a “command and control” leadership style and move towards open communication with their team. Integrate problem-solving behaviour into every level, so it becomes a key part of your culture and provides long-term benefits.

The Right Behavioural Qualities

Would you describe your culture as curious, progressive and nurturing, or hierarchal and conforming?

By providing a psychologically safe environment, your team is given the stage to speak up about problems and ideas to solve them. It increases overall morale of the company and makes problem-solving a daily, recognised part of your ingrained culture.

Leaders need to focus on communication initially, and business performance will follow.

For more leadership tips and ways to nurture a problem-solving culture, get in touch with OE Partners