In aProblem Solving Box leadership role, it seems there are so many problems, or “fires,” that pop up and so little time to solve, deal with, or challenge them. The types of problems are many:

  • Accounts
  • Policies
  • Delivery
  • Terms
  • Other team members
  • Internal department issues

I’m sure you have an even longer list. Think about the last 10 conversations you’ve had with your sales reps—How many of these conversations revolved around a problem of some sort?

If you’re like most managers, it’s 80-85%. It comes with the territory: The more responsibility you have within your company, the more problems people bring to you to fix!

Wouldn’t it be great if EVERYONE on your team were able to solve more problems without involving you?

Of course it would! The challenge is this…they can only become better problem solvers, when you let them solve their own problems! You have a choice – to either solve the problem efficiently at that moment (and forever have problems brought to your attention) or to teach them to solve the problem!

It’s like the old adage: Give a man a fish and feed him for today; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.

How do you build problem solving skills? It’s not as hard as you think—and you don’t have to give up control to do so.

[Tweet “First. STOP solving their problems! The more you solve, the less they will.”]

Instead, here’s a phased approach to building better problem solvers:

  1. Prepare to introduce your reps to a problem solving model (one at a time or as a group). Keep it simple like we do with our “In the box” Problem Solving model described here.
  2. Then when they call, email, Skype, or somehow find you…ask them to first identify as much of the background as possible before coming to you.
  • The parameters or constraints
  • Possible solutions with at least two pros and two cons
  • Their recommendation for discussion/review/approval

Please note: If the problem needs to be addressed quickly, work through the problem solving process together to equip them to be more effective next time.

  1. Be consistent with the expectation and positively reinforce the new guideline whenever possible. Behaviors and actions recognized and reinforced will be repeated over and over again.

Building better problem solvers may take a little longer at first as everyone recalibrates to this new norm. I can guarantee it will be worth it! Over a few weeks’ time, you will find you are interrupted less, brought in at a later point in the process, and able to reinforce thought-out recommendations versus solving problems for others.

The better your reps are with problem solving, the more value they bring to you, your company, and your customers. Your personal payoff? You will be able to solve bigger problems and be an even more valuable leader.

Think about the hours of productivity you will gain when you aren’t “putting out fires” for others every day.


If you like the idea of “In the Box” Problem Solving, click here for a free Tool that guides you and your reps through the steps.  Then, let me know what you think of its usefulness.

4 Success Drivers You Need to Know...and Grow


How do you strengthen this "Will" among your sales associates? How does the lack of drive impact your daily life? I discussed this and so much more on a recent virtual training event you can access below. It's valuable information for any business leader who needs to maximize performance of their people to grow their company.

Click here to access the replay.