top of page

Strategic Thinking Is The Key To Effective Problem Solving

-Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become your character.

Watch your character; they become your destiny.” Frank Lawler

-Don’t start problem solving until you have clearly identified the problem.

-“A dispute is like an archeological dig.” Prudence Bowman Kestner.

Most folks have not done a lot of thinking about thinking but expert renown Author John Maxwell has. Frank Lawler in the above mentioned quote reveals the value of effective thinking leading to words, to actions, to character and ultimately to, destiny.

Strategic Thinking:

Celebrated author and Management Guru John Maxwell uses the term Strategic Thinking (ST). So, Strategic Thinking,

-Simplifies the difficult.

-Prompts one to ask the right questions leading to precise thinking and matching the strategy to the problem.

-Reduces the margin of error and avoids the reactive mode.

-Gives one influence.

So, how does one engage in Strategic Thinking?

-First, break down the issues so they become more manageable and become “small jobs.”

-Second, one asks Why before How. In this way, one does not jump into the problem solving mode.

-Third, one identifies the real issues and objectives. In this way, one does not rush to solutions; One, removes the personal agenda; Challenges assumptions and collects information.

-Fourth, then one review the resources.

-Fifth, one develops a plan of action starting with the obvious and building momentum towards creativity.

-Sixth, one keeps repeating the process in a continuous flow towards resolution.

Realistic Thinking:

Author John Maxwell also envisions thinking in a realistic way, calling this Realistic Thinking. What are the steps in realistic thinking (RT)?

1. Minimize downside risks or consequences.

2. Think about a target and game plan. In this way, one simplifies practices and procedures leading to better efficiency.

3. RT is a catalyst for change.

4. RT provides security because one becomes more confident.

5. RT gives one credibility.

6. RT provides a foundation on which to build.

7. RT brings the dream to fruition.

How to Recognize the Importance of Realistic Thinking

1. Develop an appreciation for the truth.

2. Do the planning. Do the homework. Strip the pre-conceived notions.

3. Think through the pro’s and con’s.

4. Picture the worst case scenario.

5. Align the thinking with the resources.

Application of Strategic and Realistic Thinking.

Example: A is an Executive Coach for Company B. A is providing this service to an entire department headed by C. D is the Human Resources Officer who must sign off on coaching initiatives.

D is not a strategic thinking. D has a message to deliver and delivers it wrongly.

-First, D sends an email on a Friday afternoon. Friday especially the afternoon is the least productive time for most folks in the United States, so a bad double whammy.

-Second, it is a long email. Most, do not thoroughly read long emails.

-Third, D declares that D has spent several sleepless nights worrying about this Executive Coaching situation. A professional should not be conveying to another professional the term “sleepless nights.” It translates to a life which is out of balance.

-Fourth, D asserts without specifics that this Executive Coaching is not going the way D thought it would.

Fortunately, A is a strategic, realistic thinker. Instead of instantly countering the email, A called C and requested that they meet with D first thing Monday morning to discuss. D further stated that at the beginning of the meeting with D they would,

-Ask questions,

-Listen and


The reason? A reminded C that they really did not know what the issues are. They need to “un-nest the Russian dolls” or get out their archeological shovel to dig, to discover the underlying issues.

So, they did and it took them 20 minutes before they discovered the underlying issue. The issue? Most likely, D’s ego. D prided themselves on being a communication expert. When A and C conducted a communication seminar weeks ago for the whole department, they had failed to consult D. D kept saying, You don’t need to consult or get my permission first, BUT I do have a lot of knowledge.

Again, being strategic thinkers A and C realized that the conjunction "But" meant that whatever was said beforehand is negated. So what D was actually saying is that when there are business communication issues, D should be consulted for their expertise. Wisely, the next time, A and C planned any communication venture, they consulted with D and the problem was resolved.


Again, don’t start problem solving before one knows what the problems are. Half of the time what problem is initially being declared is what it is. The other half of the time, there is an underlying issue. Asking question, listening and summarizing before creating a plan of action makes sense. This is how realistic thinkers put all of the pieces of the puzzle together.


bottom of page