The new approach – I

When faced with an issue, the approach that one follows determines the final outcome.

While handling the closure of a manufacturing plant decades ago, my team and I worked in close tandem with HR and management to ensure everyone was on board, including the Union. We had worked on our media plan, and it was critical that the information did not leak out before the signing took place on the dotted line. Imagine our dismay when just a day before the official hand over of the site to a new management, the news got leaked to the media. Our worst nightmare had come true.

We scrambled to contain the news. A bad press may result in the deal being called off. The Union could well refuse to agree to the terms of the handover. The stock price of the company could plummet and that could have an impact on our global markets as well.

In this madness, we had to quickly put our brains together and look at an approach that could work best.

While we knew we would need to go back to the drawing board and get to the root of the leakage, the focus at that moment was to find solutions to contain the effects of the fall out.

So, we started asking questions – with the news leaked, what do we want to do? What do we want to achieve in the end? What is that one thing we should do that will help us achieve our objective?

The minute we put that on the table, the answer was not difficult. Instead of a general press release that was scheduled for the next day, we decided to lead the information, shape the narrative the way we wanted and share it in advance with a select group of media.

In the end, we were able to achieve what we wanted. A closure, a sign off, all parties on board, and positive press coverage.

What would have happened if we had spent our time instead, discussing the problem as to how did the news get leaked? Staying on the problem-solving approach, we would have probably missed the bus to tell our story our way and contain any negative coverage that may have spilled over.

By staying focused on finding solutions even in the midst of a minor hiccup, we were able to accomplish what we wanted to.

The new approach

Simple though it sounds, our mind is wired to run towards a problem-solving approach as our first default response. It takes practice to make the switch over to a solution focused approach.

In the problem-solving approach, the energies are spent on deliberating about the genesis of the problem, what lead to it, what could have we done to prevent it, who is to be blamed, etc. Accordingly, we draw up a list of activities that will assist in resolving the problem.

Not to say that we should not use this approach. It sometimes helps to retrace our steps back to where it all started so that we can effectively plug all the holes and possible future mishaps. But, when faced with an unexpected situation, it is best to stay targeted on what we want to achieve and work towards that.

In a solution focused approach, we look at the current situation and work towards the best possible future outcome. The big difference here is that we zero on to THINGS that we need to do differently to get what we want. We stay focused and targeted on what we want the outcome to be. Arriving at even one single action item that is future focused, can change the whole narrative for the situation.

Having a solution focused approach to situations and problems can lead to better, quicker, and more effective outcomes. Try it.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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