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The Joy of Problem-solving

Sunday, August 14, 2022 7:21 PM | Hallie Knox

Our member spotlight for August falls on Annie Laing, entrepreneur and Advanced Process Consultant. Annie recently established her own coaching and consulting business, The Minded Spaces, and has a passion for helping small businesses and nonprofits align their internal processes to allow for growth and a thriving internal culture. Annie is currently based in the DFW Metroplex in Texas.

Remember the feeling of pulling Elmer’s glue off your fingers as a kid? Kicking a perfect goal in a soccer match? Managing to get a tangerine peel off all in one perfectly spiraling piece? These little experiences all fall into one category in my mind – they’re satisfying.

For me, there are few things more satisfying than solving a problem. I love puzzles, and I love sticking it out through an interpersonal challenge to get to the “aha” moment. My past work had me coordinating between executive teams, and I had a million opportunities to see the impact a simple process tweak could have. Have you ever stepped into a space full of people churning too hard without getting the desired results; identified the spot where a process was missing, wrong, or just no longer serving its purpose; guided the team towards a simple, achievable solution; and watched their success supply them with the momentum they needed to keep bounding ahead? In coaching we call that “aha” moment the ‘spark of insight.’ As someone whose passion is people, there is nothing more satisfying than watching that spark take root and create serious positive change for someone, or for a team or organization full of someones.

I love being a creative, puzzle-brained problem-solver. My ability to see how processes fit together (or don’t) and my drive to create solutions to problems, along with my love of the people depending on those processes – these are part of what make me who I am. It was an absolute gift to find out that, through the Society for Process Consulting, I could get certified to do my all-time favorite thing of helping people solve problems together. Who’d have thought?

The learning curve for me has been the posture of humble listening. I am continually learning to suppress the urge to point out what I perceive as a quick fix in order to make way for the truer, better, most gratifying solution that will come later on – the one found through partnership, powerful questions, and humble listening. I understand that the impact of a collaborative problem-solving process will resound far longer than any quick-fix solution I could whip up on my own (even if it were a good solution!). You won’t understand the true gift of the process unless you first walk alongside the team with the disciplines of humility and being a slow-to-speak, discerning listener. It’s a professional challenge that I enjoy, and the joy of problem-solving is multiplied tenfold at the conclusion of that listening and learning process.

Here are the most powerful tools I’ve found toward that end so far:

● Before you step into any interaction as a process consultant, remind yourself: My greatest strength is not my expertise or my problem-solving skills. It is my ability to be here as an active and humble listener, reflecting my client’s own situation back to them as a guide.

● You still get to own your expertise, your knowledge, and your skills. Those don’t disappear, but they certainly do not take center stage. In general, you’ll be in the background using all your awesome skills and expertise to point the spotlight, quietly rotate the set, and coordinate the microphones in support of the main player – your client – as they work their way through their own story.

● ALWAYS start with the “Why.” You can step into a room full of people willing to duke it out over the “What” and the “How,” but through powerful questions and deep listening you’ll find their agreement on the “Why” almost every time. Once they all remember they are on the same team with a shared mission, the work can truly begin.

● Stay challenged. I hope I never quite perfect the skills of humble listening and asking powerful questions. I hope to invest in this learning process for the rest of my life.

With process consulting as your framework, it’s a joyful challenge to create solutions to problems with others. What could be more satisfying?

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