Confronting Problems Head On

By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching at GDCC

Solving problems lies at the very heart of doing design. Clients come to us with a set of problems. For whatever reason, their homes or businesses are not working for them, and they want us to make them better. We provide them with design solutions to address their problems.

Running a design business also involves solving problems. Many of them are relatively small problems that we routinely handle, for example, scheduling delays or difficulties with a product on order. Sometimes, though, bigger problems arise, such as an upset client or poor performing employee. But big or small, the best way to deal with a problem is to face it head-on and resolve it as quickly as possible.

Because they can be complicated and stressful, it’s tempting to put off dealing with big problems until a “more convenient” time—tempting, but not wise. Big problems only get bigger when not nipped in the bud. The sooner you resolve them, the sooner you can get back to more productive and rewarding activities.

Rather than dwelling on how unpleasant confronting the problem may be, treat it just as you would a design problem. Analyze the situation, determine the root of the problem, consider possible solutions, and develop a plan and process for achieving a successful resolution.

Once you’ve done that, set up a time to meet with the other party. Think through the conversation you will have with them, respecting their concerns and point of view. Propose your solution but be open to other possibilities. Keep in mind it’s to their benefit to find a solution as well.

You know the satisfaction you get from creating a great design solution. You can get the same kind of satisfaction from resolving business problems, as well. Handling a big problem successfully reinforces your sense of confidence, competence, and empowerment. Plus, you’ve eliminated one more source of conflict, stress and distraction. Depending on the situation, it can be a useful learning opportunity, too, and make you a better leader and manager.

I’ve always found that no matter how big or unpleasant the problem, given the choice, doing is better than stewing.

Problems are Decisions Waiting to Happen is another article that encourages designers to deal with issues and not procrastinate.


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