Critical thinking allows us to address the right problems, identify risks and make better decisions. But, too often, leaders shy away from openly discussing proficiency in these skills with their team members. They fear that identifying a weakness in critical thinking and problem solving is equivalent to calling into question a person’s intelligence. They fear their comments will be misinterpreted as a personal attack.
This couldn’t be further from the truth!
Critical thinking and creative problem solving are skills. And, just like other skills, they need to be learned and practiced. Very few of us are born with natural critical thinking and problem solving ability. And, even those who are blessed to be born with natural ability, still need to practice and hone their raw talent to be proficient. By avoiding discussions of our team members’ critical thinking and problem solving skills, we’re actually harming them by taking away the opportunity to learn and develop.
For too long, we’ve approached critical thinking and problem solving as talents not skills. We expect our staff to come to us with these abilities already developed or to organically develop them over time through experience. The result – frustration, difficulty making decisions, wasted budget dollars and missed opportunities.
Don’t avoid the conversation. Force yourself to have a constructive and positive discussion with your team members on the state of their skills, just as you would with any other skill. Include problem solving and critical thinking in your performance reviews, set clear expectations and, most important, provide learning opportunities.
Everyone will benefit. Your team will be more successful and your team members will develop a vital set of competences that will serve them throughout their career!