May 26th, 2020
Make it a habit to ask yourself these questions:
- What problem am I solving?
- What am I making better?
- How am I helping?
In light of those questions, regularly evaluate these things:
- Your product – because everyone wants a better mousetrap;
- Your job performance – because the person who solves the boss’s problem (especially before they know they have one) wins; and
- Your leadership – because people naturally follow the person who genuinely makes a difference.
Real problems, like poverty and famine, or perceived problems, like a too-short phone charger cord, drive business. And innovation happens because problems (real or perceived) will always exist.
The product that I invented was born out of constant frustration with the insufficiency of the standard, century-old technology in my field. I identified the problems, solved them all, and got noticed when a Shark Tank producer contacted me about bringing my innovation to the Tank. It was unlike anything they had seen in my industry, and, like every product you’ll ever see pitched on the show, it solved a problem. Our company landed a lucrative deal because we led the way in finding a solution.
As a leader, I look for two things in an employee: are they a good fit for our company culture and do they have the necessary skills to solve my problems? That’s it. The pro-active go-getters who will attack problems head-on will always rise to the top (and frequently, they aren’t the ones with the highest levels of education or the most impressive resumes).
Although there’s nothing wrong with applying your problem-solving energies to benefit your own well-being and financial gain, you’ll be missing the boat if you stop there. When you seek solutions for others, it’s a form of generosity and humility. When you put your own agenda aside to help others even in small ways, you add value – to their life and yours. You’ll become a more positive person with a greater sense of purpose, and somebody who people want to be around.
On the flip side, we’ve all experienced that co-worker, employee, family member or friend who focuses on the problems but settles for merely complaining. It’s exhausting, demotivating, and creates a negative culture that leaves everyone who wants to do better feeling like they’re swimming upstream.
Everyone can find a problem—there’s no skill required for that. If you want to be influential, more fulfilled, and win in leadership and life, stand out by seeking solutions.