Problems, Problems, Problems

Author avatarArun Mathur ·Mar 29, 2024

Have you ever faced a complex problem, one that made your head spin because it did not appear to have any solution? The frustration and stress that accompanies such challenges can be overwhelming. The common tendency is to shy away from these types of situations, hoping they'll magically disappear. Unfortunately, this avoidance only leads to recurring issues that can snowball into crises.

When I was younger, my parents taught me to believe that every single problem carries the potential for a solution.

In my lengthy professional accounting career, I have encountered all kinds of problems – ones related to bookkeeping, accounting, tax, computer audit, client relationships, and the list goes on. In many instances, the hardest problems were those related to disputes between people. Often, these problems – ones between business partners, family members and such - were more complicated than any accounting problem.

“Problem-solving” then, became a matter of having a thoughtful and strategic approach that went beyond mere wishful thinking.

So here are my top 5 recommendations on problem-solving as an accountant, or any other professional, based on my personal experience. These have helped me navigate through complex challenges and find win-win outcomes for all parties involved.

1. Break It Down

Complex problems can be overwhelming. Break them down into manageable components. Analyze each aspect independently to gain a comprehensive understanding. This systematic approach allows you to identify specific issues, making the problem more digestible and facilitating targeted problem-solving efforts. Remember how you tackled the professional exams that led to your qualification? Yes, that is exactly what we did as students facing complex exam questions.

2. Shift Perspectives

Don’t only focus on your own challenges. Shift your perspective by understanding the issue from various angles. Consider how others perceive the situation, especially those involved or affected by it. By broadening your viewpoint, you may discover new possibilities for innovative solutions. This is critical in dealing with client requests and even demands made by our employers and seniors. We want to understand their way of thinking and why they are asking what they are asking. Often, there are other ways to achieve what they want. So, it’s important to understand their perspective to arrive at the best solution.

3. Connect Problems

Rather than isolating a problem, explore connections with other challenges. For instance, if you're struggling to find a job, consider the employer's perspective in their quest for capable employees. By thinking about their problem first, you may find unique solutions and position yourself as a problem-solver for both parties.

In today’s accounting marketplace, this is such a critical requirement. Many accounting employers have a severe need for competent and reliable workers, and accounting professionals are seeking good positions in reputable companies. If you think about the employer’s needs, you can present yourself as the solution to that need.

4. Empathy in Action

Effective problem-solving requires stepping into someone else's shoes. Actively listen to and prioritize other people’s concerns. By placing emphasis on solving their problems first, you create a foundation for reciprocal solutions to your own challenges. This can be used in dealing with accounting, tax and financial matters. It can also help in arriving at decisions within the management team and at the board level. Active listening skills will help you become more effective in problem solving, no matter what type of problem you are confronted with. This is a fundamental concept in sales training – it is helpful for professional accountants too.

5. Collaborative Solutions

Recognize the power of collaboration in problem-solving. Share your challenges with others and actively seek solutions to their problems. This reciprocal relationship fosters a supportive environment where collective efforts lead to shared success. The most effective problem-solvers are those who understand the value of collaborative endeavors.

Experience shows us that over time, we become more competent and increase our capabilities through practice. It also shows us that often, other people solve our problems – not us. Think about it – we are good at only a handful of things and rely entirely on others for many other things. We need others to solve our problems and they need us to solve their problems. Therefore, we must strive to build good collaborative relationships with those we deal with.

Be willing to invest time to solve other people’s problems and create positive results for them. You could be rewarded along the way by having your problems resolved too.

What strategies do you use for solving complex problems?


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