How to coach a person who finds it difficult to independently solve problems

How to coach a person who finds it difficult to independently solve problems

Solving problems is something we all do on a daily basis, whether it be in personal life or at work. The issue is that finding the right solutions to those problems is not always easy for everyone. People who are very good at problem solving are more self-reliant, as they need less help, but also tend to take their time more. People who are less well at problem solving are more likely to try different solutions, but also might ask for help more. Depending on the team, work setting and type of job, you might prefer one type over another.

After reading this blog you will find out:

The three (soft) skills that impact your employees’ behaviour most

87% of one’s success at the workplace is attributed to soft skills. That’s why it’s important to help your employees understand what their soft skills are, which are their strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly of all, help them overcome their (soft) skill weaknesses by ensuring them that developing soft skills in the workplace is possible.

The three (soft) skills that impact your employees’ behaviour most are: problem solving; flexibility and adaptability; and behavioural/emotional control. In this blog, we will zoom into the importance of problem solving skills in the workplace, and how you can coach a person who finds it difficult to solve problems independently.

Want to learn more about the impact the other two skills have on your employee behaviour? 

Problem-solving in the workplace

In everyone’s life, there are (or at one point have been) problems. Without a doubt some problems are minor and some are more complex. Critical thinking and problem solving skills are also amongst the most essential skills in any given workplace. However, there is a difference between how people resolve their daily problems and work related ones. 

In a working environment, good problem-solving skills allow you to independently make decisions and to be self-reliant. Being good at problem solving means that an employee is able to independently identify and plan the steps that are necessary to take when solving a problem. So what are the key differences between a person who has sharp problem solving skills and someone who is a non-problem solver?

How to coach a person who finds it difficult to independently solve problems

As I mentioned before – problem solving is an essential part of every business. If you make sure your employees are better equipped to solve problems on their own, business will run more smoothly and efficiently. Now you might be left wondering – how can I coach a person who finds it difficult to independently solve a problem? There are two main things you should keep in mind – continuously encourage them and trust them to get the job done.

Encourage them to become more independent

There are three ways in which you can encourage your employees to become more independent problem solvers:

  1. Apply the 5 WHYs framework. By encouraging the person to question the problem repeatedly, they will be able to arrive at the root cause of the problem & find the best solution.
  2. Find ways to visualize problems. For example, by drawing a mind map of the problem or using sticky notes to create more structure in their thoughts.
  3. Encourage brainstorming sessions. Our brains struggle to find solutions if we only tend to focus on the problems themselves. Encourage your employees to be solution-oriented by questioning what the potential solution could be together. Give team brainstorming sessions a go!

Trust them to get the job done

There is nothing more important than establishing trust within a workplace, so trust your employees to get the job done. Provide them with goals and guidance on how to achieve these goals. Then give them the space to find the solutions on their own. If you don’t give them the space to come up with solutions by themselves, it is likely that they will keep on relying on you to provide them with solutions in the future.

What happens if someone is too hypercritical?

A hypercritical employee might tend to overthink and over-analyze everything related to their workplace. That is including the tasks they are asked to complete, as well as tasks being completed by others. 

Imagine making a small mistake. Someone who is hypercritical, might tend to exaggerate the significance of this mistake. Additionally, hypercriticism can go hand in hand with lack of recognition for their own achievements at work – often, nothing seems to be good enough for their standards.  There are two things you can do to deal with this – maintain open communication, as well as give clear guidelines & direction.

Maintain open communication

Give the person a chance to openly discuss their expectations, needs and give you a better understanding of their perspective.  Take the initiative and begin openly communicating with them & acknowledging them for their achievements.

Give clear guidelines & direction

Focusing on specific examples can help lower the employee’s defensiveness and offer useful information. This way you will help them improve their overall workplace performance. One way to do this, for example, is to write down expectations both you and the employee have for the upcoming month, half a year and so on. 


Measuring (soft) skills objectively does not have to be hard. One way to objectively assess and measure the three (soft) skills that impact your employees’ behaviour most is by using neuroscientific games.  Curious about what the games are like?


Cheers, Anete

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