Throughout my career, the most helpful skill I have learned to develop is troubleshooting, or put more generally, problem-solving. The reason this is so important is that it keeps the project, and your team, moving, therefore limiting and breaks in momentum. Losing momentum and staying stuck can be a huge driver of low morale. People tend to give up and lose hope when adversity comes. Call it a product of our tech-advanced, less-engaged, “easy” world we live in.
In order to shoot trouble effectively, it takes a healthy combination of curiosity, creativity, gumption, patience, and knowledge. If you are missing any of those when you find yourself in trouble, you’re either going to become frustrated and give up or seriously break something.
My specific area of expertise in trouble usually involves technical glitches surrounding website development or online marketing. However, there are a few core principles of troubleshooting I have learned that can help us with other common problems:
- Finding where a leak is coming from in your home
- Figuring out what that annoying blinking light is in your car’s dashboard
- Solving why your computer’s spinning wheel is stuck
- Even interpersonal problem solving such as repairing a relationship with a colleague
Regardless of where the trouble is, I am confident the following techniques will help you approach the situation in a more calm and productive way.
Kickstart the Troubleshooting Process by Developing Curiosity
If you’re going to fix something of any substance, you have to first be interested in it. You have to care. You need gumption.
If you treat the problem as a chore or frantically try to fix it because someone told you to, you’re going to have a lot harder time than someone who is looking forward to solving the problem.
Developing that curiosity is difficult, I know. Especially if the trouble concerns a topic you know nothing about or don’t have time for. There’s a solution for that: fake it until you make it. You’re going to have to pretend to be curious about it even if you’re not.
One way to develop this trait to research an aspect of your business you do not particularly know about each week. It will not take long, and you may be fascinated as to what you find! As you peel back the layers of how things work in other fields than your own, you will develop a broader understanding of how things work, which will help you put them back together when the time comes.
I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered a problem where the immediate reaction of the person I am dealing with is to incorrectly diagnose the problem. “Well, it’s just broke now and I’ll have to buy a new one.” “Oh, we must have been hacked!” “Traffic is down on our online platforms, the marketing must not be effective.” “Obviously, LinkedIn is not the platform we should be using.”
Statements like these can really lead you down the wrong track if you let them. You have to pull your magnifying glass out and examine what’s really being said. You have to clarify. Dig deeper by asking the right questions:
- Who or What specifically are we talking about? “It” will not suffice. We all know someone who just says, “It won’t start”, or “It won’t come on.”
- How were things being done when the problem occurred? The manner in which something was performed is just as important as what was performed.
- What are we comparing to? “The website is slow”…compared to what?
- Clarify universals: “This dumb app never works!”. Is that true? Has there never been a time that it worked for you? What was different about that time?
As you can see, how you look at things and ask the right questions can help you get to the root of the problem.
Fix One Thing at a Time
In most cases, a problem is usually caused by one issue. The ONLY way you will find the correct remedy for that one issue is to change one thing at a time. While it’s easier to sometimes replace several components at once if you do not know where to start, you are setting yourself up for a more costly and timely experience next go around until you eventually find the best solution.
Be Confident So You Can be Creative
Sometimes I ponder what creativity actually is. As a more analytical person, having to be creative can certainly intimidate me. But has anyone ever really created anything besides God? No, we, as humans, are just good at morphing and transforming what is already there. And through the techniques previously discussed, we can get a good understanding of what is there so that we can make it into what we need it to be.
One way to be more confident when you need to be creative and find solutions is to remain focused on the objective. What is the machine supposed to do? What purpose does it serve? This helps your mind avoid random and unhelpful thoughts.
Another way to increase confidence when troubleshooting is simply self-talk and prayer. As silly as it may be, I always tell myself, “The solution is out there, and I know I will find it. There is no way I will not find it.” As of October 19, 2020, it has not failed me yet.
I love Matthew 7:7 for this reason. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” The Bible is filled with affirmations, but most of us never do our part.
Are we asking?
Are we seeking?
Are we knocking?
Do we have confidence that we will be delivered a solution to our worst issues?
There are hundreds of additional techniques I use daily for troubleshooting, but I hope this helps you think in a more productive way next time trouble finds you.