Empowerment: Develop the Problem Solving Muscle

Empowerment: Develop The Problem-Solving Muscle. Don’t always rescue others, rather help them to develop emotional resilience and stress management skills. Lead your family or your team to empowerment.

“We are wired to help others when things go wrong and to commiserate. Be careful.”

Nikki Bush


So often we rush in to save someone going through a tough time. We want to take the pain or stress away. We are wired that way. It’s called empathy, and the world needs lots of it. However, being supportive is one thing, but playing the saviour or rescuer card too often can rob the other person – adult or child – of the opportunity to develop the essential life skills of emotional resilience and stress management in the face of any kind of challenging situation. Develop the problem-solving muscle for empowerment.

Have you ever considered how rescuing others can actually minimise them and make them feel smaller and less competent? I have experienced this feeling, have you? We can help and empower others more by acknowledging the challenge and responding with something like this:  “It may not be something you want (or want to go through) but I think it’s something you can handle.” This helps them build their problem-solving muscle, whether we are talking about your colleagues, life partner, a friend or your kids.

While this is a statement, it is far more than that. It’s passing on your belief in that person’s ability to rise above the challenge at hand and to learn and grow from it. You see, life happens and not everything is in our control. There are things that happen that we like, or that we would like for ourselves. Sometimes we create these things, or we create the perfect conditions that enable them to flourish. Other things happen that we wouldn’t necessarily choose but we can handle them. Sometimes life hits us with stuff that constitutes a crisis and requires us to muster both internal and external resources to cope with the sideswipe that we weren’t expecting. Even these situations have the potential to grow and change us. However, growth requires:

  • Courage
  • Emotional resilience
  • Problem solving and solutions finding abilities
  • The ability to be able to re-frame our thinking
  • To choose to re-author the script of our lives

Nothing in the list above is easy, but everything is doable if we make the choice to go that route. Without a doubt, someone who sees the glass half full is more inclined to see the positive opportunities in a negative situation. They consciously ask themselves these questions and this energizes their will to move forward:

  • How can I grow from this?
  • What can I learn from this?

If you are managing a family or a team, it is your responsibility as a leader to encourage and empower the members of your family or team at work to learn how to solve problems for themselves so that they can develop their personal leadership skills, resilience, and their problem-solving muscle.

Take-aways For Winning At Home And Life

  • Don’t always rescue your children when they face obstacles or difficult relationships as these provide real opportunities for meaningful learning.
    • When they ask what they should do, first reflect the question back at them: “What do you think you should do?”
    • Keep asking questions in response to their questions instead of giving answers (it’s called the Socratic Method), helping them to drill down into how they think they could handle the situation or solve the problem. “I like the way you are thinking but have you thought about/perhaps that….?” The aim is to keep the conversation going not to shut it down.
    • Guide them to their own solution which they can implement and then own. This will go a long way to helping them to develop and “I can” philosophy that will stand them in good stead for independent living and success as they grow up.
  • In essence, you need to be a coach.
  • Stay calm and offer a measured response (remember to manage your own stress and you will help them learn how to manage theirs too)
  • Listen for understanding instead of lecturing.

Take-aways For Winning At Work

  • Be a coach, helping your team members to discover their own solutions.
  • Similar to the above advice for families, don’t rescue your team members, rather empower them
  • Help your team to become solution seekers over problem finders.
  • Use the Socratic Method of conversation and questioning – coaching them to find their own solutions. This passes on the baton of responsibility for personal leadership and good problem-solving skills into their hands. You are just the guide alongside – the trademark of an effective manager and leader.

When dealing with family stress at home or team member stress at work, always remember that your goal should be to empower not to rescue – to shape solution seekers not problem finders. This is in their own best interests as well as yours! If you keep rescuing friends, your children, partners or team members they develop a kind of syndrome or state of being known as Learned Helplessness. Rather empower them by helping them to develop their own problem-solving muscle. Life is a series of problems and solutions. Help them to get good at spotting them and solving them. They will be so grateful in the long run and it will save you time and reduce your energy output too.

If you want an experience in creating your own Success Recipes that are essentially a solution to a challenge or problem, you may want to look at my Success Cube™ workshops that I run for teams. Remember that you will help and empower team members more by acknowledging the challenge and responding with something like this:  “It may not be something you want (or want to go through) but I think it’s something you can handle. Let’s talk about how you think you might go about this….”.

I also run Success Cube coaching sessions for individuals who want to create Success Recipes for any goal they have in mind.

For schools wanting to inspire and encourage their parents to empower their children to be independent and resourceful, book me for my Let Go and Let Grow talk.

Here’s to building problem-solving muscles this month.

Human Potential and Parenting Expert, speaker, and author

Helping you win at work and life

For more insights: What’s the Idea Behind EMPOWERING, NOT RESCUING YOUR TEAM?