Posted November 6, 2012 by Beth Goad 

Problem Solving is About Knowing Your Resources

Leadership is a core competency we encounter in some shape or form every day in our professional lives. From working with students in leadership roles, to leading your own organization/group or taking direction from its leader we are impacted by one’s ability to develop and communicate a vision so others commit to fulfilling its mission and goals. Each day, I aim to empower the students I work with to be leaders, while also maintaining my leadership as I oversee the building manager staff.

leadWhether working with building managers, student government representatives, or leaders from student clubs and organizations, we know the most successful ones are skilled at Problem Solving, one of the skills sets of the Leadership core competency. As outlined by the Association, the skills and knowledge required for Problem Solving are:

Knowledge required:

  • Knowledge of problem-solving methods and techniques

Skills and abilities required:

  • Ability to effectively apply basic problem-solving techniques
  • Ability to diffuse difficult situations

Problem solving can be a difficult concept to teach students because each situation looks different. There is not always a prescription to give for how to handle each situation, but we can provide the tools and resources necessary to solve a problem on their own. I always say it’s about knowing your resources, so if there is a problem that cannot be solved on your own, you know who to turn to for help.

Because of the numbers of students we serve and their increasingly complex lives, it is no doubt problems will arise that we haven’t had to deal with before. Even after working at the same institution for over four years, I encounter new situations regularly. Just as I teach the building managers with whom I work, when I’ve exhausted by own possible solutions, it’s important to turn to my knowledge of other offices on campus that could help diffuse a situation.

Recently, I encountered a student who did not communicate in typical way. She stood outside our office, which acts as the student union information center, but did not enter the office as most everyone who is looking for help. I was talking with a few building managers who happened to be in the office, while I was heating up my lunch and the student continued to stand there looking at us. I asked her if I could help and she only blinked.

After a few minutes of her not moving or responding, I approached her and asked “do you need help?” She tentatively moved her notepad so I could read what was written on it. She had lost her cell phone. We checked the office safe, but it was not there. We eventually got its description, and I had a building manager check with the police department and the cafeteria in the building, neither of which had the phone. After nearly 30 minutes of checking and trying to get more information, I felt I had exhausted our ability to help, so I made a call to disability services, who I thought would be better equipped to assist her.

While I felt discouraged we were not able to recover the student's cell phone, I was more distraught that I was not better equipped to communicate with her. The students I work with were also exposed to a new situation, and it opened the door for us to have a conversation about how to help those who may have different communication needs.

How do you approach problem solving in your office?

Please take the time to join us for a more in-depth examination of this skill set on the next College Unions and Activities Discussion (CUAD) podcast on Nov. 8, at 2 p.m. Eastern and then further discussions on Twitter by following #ACUICC.


Beth Goad

Beth Goad is the Associate Director, New Student & Family Programs at Bridgewater State University.


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