Are you a problem-solver or solution-focuser?

Michelle Vincent
January 14, 2019
As we enter the new year, we often come up with a fresh look at what we would like to change in our lives. As I look around at the people in this world and how they go about achieving their goals, I notice there are two approaches typically taken:

• an attempt to solve the “problem”
• an attempt to implement a solution to solve the “problem”

The process that one engages in in order to achieve that goal is interesting to look at and can enlighten one on the overall journey we are all making.
When we look at this concept through a policing perspective, be it personal and/or professional, the first step might be to identify the goal we wish to achieve. It is important to return to this piece on a regular basis to ensure we are on the right track and haven’t been distracted from our focus.

We will often begin by identifying a problem and sometimes that problem finds us before we find it. For example, perhaps you know you are not meeting the goals of operational excellence in the area of visiting places of worship on your shift as you patrol a busy sector and feel you do not have the time to affect this task. On the home front, perhaps your life partner has mentioned the lack of time you spend together alone, and you think to yourself: How am I supposed to find another moment in my already packed day to make that happen?

In looking at the two approaches mentioned above, we almost always require a problem to present itself in order for this brainstorming process to be initiated. As we identify the problem at hand — for example, “not enough time,” which is a recurring theme in most people’s lives — and become more specific, without actually entering into a “problem-solving” mode, we remain at a fork in the road. Here we have an opportunity to choose how we will move forward.
It is at this point we become the problem-solver or solution-focuser. Two aspects worth considering are:

• whether you like it or not, the more you think of something, the more you get of it
• you always find what you are looking for

If you can remember this and revisit the object of your goal, you are well on your way to achieving success in that area.

The way in which you approach the identified problem will dictate how your mind perceives the solution. If you are a problem-solver, you will likely “go back” and look at how you arrived at the problem. You will be immersed in the problem at hand. The problem will be your focus and stepping outside of the “problem concept” may be challenging.

Perhaps you are not passionately invested in solving the problem at hand. In the work example above, you may not see the necessity in visiting places of worship during an already overloaded shift. Revisiting the “problem” with this thought running through your mind may pose a challenge in finding that solution.

If, on the other hand, we approach the identified problem by focusing on attaining a solution, we quickly move the mind “forward” to finding a solution that may create a mind-space of openness and thinking outside of the box. We are then immersed in the solutions — exactly what we intended when we set out to make the change in our current situation. Therefore, we may make a list of the benefits connected to making that 10-minute stop at a place of worship (i.e. an opportunity to network and create community relations so when a crime occurs, they support our investigation through the trust we have built).

I have noticed that when I take the time to focus on the solution and its possible benefits, the pros of completing the problematic task in question far outweigh the cons of the time it will take to attend. Almost magically, extra time appears in my day to make this task possible as I leave behind the world of problems and sit in my world of solutions.

I leave you with this question: As a leader in your organization, are you — or do you want to be — a problem-solver or a solution-focuser?
Happy new year to all. Be safe.


Michelle Vincent is a 17-year York Regional Police officer with a master of arts in counselling psychology and a background in equine-assisted therapy, workplace reintegration after a critical incident and long-term leave, as well as teaching. She is in the process of implementing the first non-profit treatment centre that will be occupationally specific for first responders and is working towards her PhD in Forensic Psychology/Crisis Response. She can be contacted at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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