The Formula To Finding Killer Solutions To Killer Problems? Space + Time.

Heavy Chef spoke to Don Packett about his philosophy of NPOS (No Problems, Only Solutions) around the topic of failure. Don is a MC, professional speaker, stand-up comedian, author and CEO of Missing Link.

Over the past few years I have – as I’m sure most of you have too – been part of a number of personality profiling exercises like Insights and Enneagram, showcasing leadership capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and one I always find quite interesting: Whether you’d whip yourself in a corner if you either failed yourself or others.

The best leaders, I’ve been told, are the ones who are prone to being more accountable to themselves, so the fear of failure sits on their shoulders, and Jeebiz help anyone who stands in their way. In turn, if they persevere and don’t fail, it’s good for everyone else around them too. Win-win.

I, on the other hand – thanks to a plethora of multiple-choice questions online, seem to be a happy balance of not wanting to fail myself, as well as not wanting to fail others. No extra pressure, right!? Brilliant.

I’ve tried to instill this in my team too. Not in those words specifically, but by allowing them to see both sides of failure, because it always has to start with you. The biggest – and in my opinion, most important – lesson I’ve shared with the team to date is this: NPOS (No Problems, Only Solutions).

Give the problem-owner space and time to actually think about the problem and try to solve it themselves.

The simple premise, and one that’s often lost or forgotten in organisations (even the ones as small as we are) is that whenever you have a problem that needs a solution, never, ever, ever (did I say ‘ever’?) come to me with only the problem, it has to land with a solution as well.

Don Packett is the CEO of Africa's biggest presentation firm, Missing Link. 

Don Packett is the CEO of Africa's biggest presentation firm, Missing Link. 

Too often we’ve seen internally, and even with some of our clients, an affinity to shouting out a problem with no initial thought of finding a solution – hoping someone else will be able to give them a quick answer. While the answer may very well be given quickly because of past experience, it’s not helpful in terms of growth. Why this is important for me and my team is that it gives the problem-owner space and time (forced, for sure) to actually think about the problem and try to solve it themselves, to gain that experience.

Do they get it right every time?

Of course not. But, neither did I years ago. Hell, I still don’t. But, by instilling this new modus operandi, I get to see how the team thinks about certain problems and watch as they slowly but surely get better at it.

With every lesson from every small failure – while solving new problems – there’s another notch in their belt of experience. Every notch means that there are fewer times someone comes across looking for an answer to something that they could have solved themselves in the first place. What’s better is hearing the stories about the problems that came across their desks and how they solved it.

So how do I deal with failure? I try to create a controlled and shared environment, where the team can learn together – because that’s how we’ll all grow.

To see more of the work Don is doing, have a look at his blog here: Don Packett