Month: December 2020

Six Steps to Becoming a Better Problem Solver

Whether you are a  student, a parent, an intern, a public servant, or the president of a large corporation you are going to have to face problems at some point.

Problems which will need solutions to solve them.

They are part of everyone’s life.

Like it or not, we all have to make decisions. And the decisions we make need to solve the problems we face. Whether you want to fix a bug in your network, hit a deadline, secure that promotion or start your own company – however big or small, we all set objectives and goals for ourselves that require us to solve problems.

Being good at problem-solving is in big demand. Employers routinely add it to their wish-list. How many times have you seen “problem solvers wanted” in job descriptions? As far as tech goes, the ability to resolve challenges effectively is fast becoming an essential skill for recruitment.

So how do you sharpen this particular skill? Is there an approach or strategy to problem-solving that can be mastered or improved?

Well, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a systematic approach built on well-defined steps can help you find solutions that yield real, sustainable, and scale-able solutions – whatever the problem.

Problem-Solving: A Step by Step Approach

1. Identify the problem?

There is no better starting point than defining what it is that needs to be fixed.

It means taking the time to thoroughly review the situation – separating the symptoms from the cause. Making your diagnosis is about understanding what hurts and why. This takes time and might mean doing a bit of research to reveal the underlying issues behind the problem.

2. Determine the Root Causes

Once you have identified what your problem is, you need to figure out why it is.

  • What is behind it?
  • What is causing it?
  • Can it be quantified or qualified.
  • What is going on at a core level?

Because as you work towards solving your problem, you are going to want to find a solution that deals with the causes and not just the symptoms, right?  So again, take the time to investigate the situation. Collect information, analyze your findings, and refine your diagnosis.

3. Find Multiple Solutions

Being a good problem-solver means thinking innovatively and that means thinking outside the box. Do not settle for the first solution you find. Push the boat out. Find as many alternative solutions as you can. And then find some more.

This might mean looking for solutions in unusual places or from unusual sources – talking to a different set of colleagues, keeping an open mind, or being receptive to the interchange of ideas or perspectives. Whatever if it takes, once you have a set of alternative solutions, subject them all to analysis.

4. Find the Solution that will Work Best

Easier said than done? Not necessarily. Go about it logically. Answer these questions:

  • Is it technically viable?
  • Is it scale-able?
  • Do you have the resources?
  • What are the risks? Can they be managed?
  • Does your solution benefit as many people as possible?
  • Can it be measured? How will you measure it?

5. Plan and Implement Your Solution

Give this part plenty of thought too. Build a really tight plan to execute your solution.  You will need to cover who, what, when, and how you will implement your plan.

And just as importantly, you will need to think about how you are going to determine if your solution was a success, which leads us to the final step.

6. Measure the Success of Your Solution

How does it measure against your goals? Have you met your objectives? Have you stayed within budget? Is the work complete? Can you see a measurable outcome?

Evaluating the success of your solution is a vital – and often neglected step – because it shows you clearly whether your solution is the correct one, or whether you need to go back to step one and start over. Because a key part of problem-solving effectively is about being prepared to get it wrong – and to learn from your mistakes.

Remember that all problems are simply puzzles waiting to be solved. Practice using these six steps to build your problem solving acumen and you will find that your abilities being highly valued.

Control your Tongue

Scriptures: Matthew 12

I came across a statistic that shocked me. I was not sure I believed it. I read that the average person speaks 11,000,000 words a year. Imagine 11,000,000 words a year. This is easier to believe about some people than others. I have a relative for whom 11,000,000 words a year is no problem. He can do that in a month.  Do you know how many words that is in a lifetime? At the age of 65 it is 715,000,000 words. Imagine the magnitude of that many words.

Our words matter

Words are incredibly powerful. They can build up, encourage, and motivate. Words can also tear down, hurt, and cause horrible scars. Remember the saying many of us used as kids, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It isn’t true. Words can hurt. Some of us are living with the scars of the hurtful words of others. The Bible reminds us that “Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Prov 18:21 (HCSB)

Words matter to God. He keeps a record of our words. Jesus said, “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak.” Matt 12:36 (HCSB) Jesus spoke plainly about our use of words. He tells us, “for every careless word” there will be an accounting in the day of judgment. We expect Jesus to condemn profane and vile uses of the tongue, but idle words? We say some words carelessly, without concern for their impact on others. Why would God care about those? We assume that the sins of our tongue are minor sins, sins that God will overlook. Jesus was fully aware of the devastating nature of our words.

How to use our words

The Bible has a lot to say about how we use our words. Here are a few biblical principals about the use of words.

  1. Refrain from attack words

Words can be used as a weapon to lash into people. Sometimes our goal is to hurt people by what we say. The first thing some people do in the morning is brush their teeth and sharpen their tongue. Words can cut like a knife and we want to stick the dagger in deep. God does not want us to use our words as a weapon. He wants us to use our words to bless others. Jesus says in Matthew 5:44, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (HCSB

2. Refrain from gossip

We need to be careful about the news we share concerning others. Someone said, “There is only one thing as difficult as unscrambling an egg, and that’s unspreading a rumor.” Gossip is destructive, and it is subtle. Someone begins a conversation: “Did you hear?” Before you know it, you’re caught up in gossip. Don’t believe everything you hear. Someone said, “A gossip usually makes a mountain out of a molehill by adding some dirt.”

Be careful about listening to gossip. Is listening to gossip all that much worse than telling it? There’s a saying, “He who gossips to you will gossip about you.”

The Bible warns us…

“The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.” Prov 20:19 (HCSB)

“A contrary man spreads conflict, and a gossip separates friends.” Prov 16:28 (HCSB)

Watch out for gossip.

  1. Use clean words

Some words are just not proper to speak. When we were kids our parents would wash our mouths out with soap if we said such words. Having a foul mouth is not something to be proud of. Some words are not supposed to be said.

       2.Use truthful words

Jesus said, “But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.” Matt 5:37 (HCSB) People need to believe what we say. Lying destroys our credibility. Chances are that we’ll eventually be caught if we make a practice of lying.

I heard a story about a woman who was hosting guests for dinner. She decided to serve chicken. She told the butcher she’d like to buy chicken. The butcher opened his freezer case, and saw only one chicken. He put it on the scale and said “two pounds.” The lady responded, “Oh, I wanted one bigger than that.” The butcher, not wanting to lose a sale, took the chicken off the scale, put it back in the freezer and pulled up the same chicken – his last chicken – and said, “three pounds.” The woman answered, “Great, I’ll take both of them.” The butcher had a problem. Be honest. Let the words that flow from your mouth be truthful.

        3. Use edifying words

The Bible says, “No rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need, in order to give grace to those who hear.” Eph 4:29 (HCSB) The Bible challenges us to use our words to help people, to build others up, not to tear them down. A popular Zig Ziglar saying is, “He climbs highest who helps another up.” Our words can have an incredibly positive effect. How many of us have found great comfort or encouragement because of what someone said to us? Don’t underestimate the value of an encouraging word.

Perhaps you are thinking, Okay pastor, you’ve made your point, I need to make some changes on the way I use my tongue. But how do I do it? Perhaps you’ve tried to make some changes in your speech but it ended in failure. You want to know what you can do to succeed this time.

III. Transform the tongue

Transforming the tongue begins with a change in the heart. Jesus said, “But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man.” Matt 15:18 (HCSB). The heart influences the tongue. When it is full of anger, selfishness, envy, pride, and all the other ugly “stuff” that can invade our hearts, we are affected in everything we do.

I heard about a joke some children played on their grandfather. They found him asleep on the sofa in the living room. One of the youngsters got the bright idea to spread some Limburger cheese in Grandpa’s mustache. After a while grandpa woke up and began to smell that Limburger cheese and said, “Something in this living room stinks.” He went into the kitchen, still smelling the Limburger cheese in his mustache, and said, “Something in this room stinks.” Finally, he stuck his head out the back door and says, “Ah, the whole world stinks!”

Some of us have Limburger cheese in our hearts. The problem is not out there, it’s within us. Something needs to change within us. Our focus needs to be transformed. Instead of looking for the bad in a situation, we need to look for the good. Instead of being preoccupied with self-interest, we need to focus on the interests of others. Changing our hearts is a good place to start.

We need to think before we speak. The Bible teaches, “My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” James 1:19-20 (HCSB)

Guard against engaging the tongue without engaging the mind. Take a moment before you speak. Here’s an acrostic to help evaluate whether you are about to say something you perhaps shouldn’t. Ask the following questions:

T – is it true?

H – is it helpful?

I – is it inspiring?

N – is it necessary?

K – is it kind?

If what you are about to say does not pass this simple test, then don’t say it. Think before you speak.

Tap into God’s help. This help is available to us. Who can discipline the human tongue? Jesus can. Jesus is in the business of transforming lives. Paul reminded us, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Jesus can give us the desire and motivation to change. Most of all, He can give us the ability to make the change. Paul commented, “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13 (HCSB)

Countless lives have been transformed through Christ. Jesus specializes as a change agent. Let Jesus do His work in your life.