How hard is it to take initiative and solve problems?

People at all levels need to be empowered to make decisions, solve problems and show initiative. It shouldn’t be that hard!

Supervisors, managers and team leaders need to encourage staff to be empowered, which in turn helps boost staff motivation. Managers also need to reward staff for showing initiative – even if nothing concrete results – so they are more willing to do the same in future. Maybe it would help to encourage problem solving with a strategy.


Steps for problem solving


There are four main steps involved in effective problem solving:


STEP 1 – Define the problem


First, it must be established that there is a problem, and what exactly the problem is. Symptoms usually appear as indicators – stress, work not being delivered on time, people showing up late to work and/or taking a lot of time off. A brainstorming meeting is often a good way to define and identify what the problem is.


A good way to work out the key issue(s) in a problem situation is to use “the analogy of pain” – “What hurts the most?” People need to detect and welcome hearing about the pain as it facilitates greater understanding of a problem, which can lead to a quicker solution.


STEP 2 – Analyse the problem


Analysis of the problem may involve measuring things, for example, using “continuous improvement forms” to monitor and record when problems occur and to get an idea of the scale of particular issues. The problem needs to be diagnosed in order to find the core issue at the root of the problem, which will aid in finding the best possible solution.


Many people externalise problems and blame them on other people or systems, rather than looking at themselves to see where they may have contributed. A good thing for team leaders and managers to do is consider where they might be causing difficulty and set an example by saying, “Maybe I didn’t do this, or that.” Hopefully this will encourage others to do the same, which will in turn help people to arrive at a good solution in less time.


STEP 3 – Generate solutions


One person may have already started this process, in which case they need to share their ideas, either by emailing or sending an office memo, or organising a staff meeting where people can get together and brainstorm.


If the problem involves a lack of resources, it might be necessary to settle for a second or third best option. People need to generate a number of solutions while brainstorming, list the plusses and minuses on a whiteboard and vote on each option, thereby eliminating those that are undesirable.


If possible solutions do not come easily, hold off on making a decision in order to let the creative juices of the group flow. This can often help people to come up with wonderful solutions that otherwise may never have been considered.


STEP 4 – Action planning


Once a solution has been agreed to, map out what will be done, who will do it, and when it will be done by. A person should be appointed to lead the action plan and follow it through to completion.


Take initiative!


A person may hear passing comments like, “this is annoying…” or “this doesn’t work…” and that’s a great cue to take action and suggest, “I have a new way of doing this, a better way…”.


However, some people are afraid to take risks and show initiative for fear of negative consequences.


Managers, supervisors and team leaders need to empower and encourage people to take risks and reward them for showing initiative, even if nothing concrete results.


Play Click here to see video Problem Solving and Initiative






By Eve Ash, psychologist and Managing Director, Seven Dimensions, and co-producer with Peter Quarry of the Ash.Quarry production – Problem Solving and Initiative (from the Take Away Training series)


To read more Eve Ash blogs, click here


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.