When you don’t know the solution, keep moving
When you don’t know the solution, keep moving
If you are facing a daunting problem, you don’t have to solve it today.

By Hayley Robins, Senior Accountant at Hive Business

Something I’ve always struggled with is trying to tackle a problem without knowing what the solution is. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, let me explain. My problem in the past has been wasting time trying to find a complete solution, rather than taking baby steps in the right direction.

As Ross says, if you are facing a daunting problem, you don’t have to solve it today. But it’s often been the fear of not knowing how to solve a problem that has paralysed me. In those circumstances I’ve been no use to anyone, and it would have been better to seek someone else’s perspective, or do something immediate to ease the pain, even if it wasn’t a total solution.

Sometimes doing something small actually changes the problem in itself — especially when you’re dealing with people. If the issue is someone else’s behaviour, you only have control over yourself. You can try and manage their behaviour but it’s an ongoing process, and seldom is a total solution available. You have to get used to working in increments and often, if we’re being completely honest, a little bit blindly.

The way my mind works is that it wants to see the solution and the steps to get there, and I struggle to pull it back from doggedly seeking that information. If the solution isn’t forthcoming, however, and I don’t manage to pull my mind off its mission, I become paralysed. My mind wants to see that solution and can’t move on to anything else until it has one.

Sound familiar? I see this pattern of behaviour a lot among dental practice owners. When a principal can’t find a reliable associate to hire in the obvious places, for instance, they start moaning and stop looking. But if the ideal candidate is an associate who works five days, what about a therapist who frees up the patient journey for some of the time? It’s not a full solution, but it eases the pressure.

Sometimes a solution is really clear and if the principal was looking at the same situation in another dental practice they would see it, but because it’s them they don’t want to admit it. This is called being human. As a universal example, I was talking to Dan about what I’d do if I was going to advise myself how to accelerate my personal development. We agreed it was simple: never drink in the week, get up an hour earlier, eat well. Simple, but not easy.

The fact is daily life is a battleground. It’s chaos. Unlike in your training there is no step by step template to ‘get it right’ because all the curve balls coming at you are unique. You might be able to eat and sleep well on a silent retreat but it’s not so easy in mainstream life. When you’re problem solving at work and you can’t figure out what the solution is, or even what the next two steps are, all you can do is react to the consequences of your next step to get to the second one.

For me this process can feel painful: I’m really busy, there are 101 things going on in my head, and I just want a tick list and to stop thinking about the problem. In reality holding on to that desire — a symptom of perfectionism — was only ever holding me back from solving the problem. I had to let go.

That’s actually how Hive consultancy works. We don’t always know how the solution looks but we’re working towards it anyway. That’s counterintuitive and was initially uncomfortable for me, as an accountant. As a technician I, like dentists, love set formats, order and chronological plans. But in business it’s just not like that. You have to use your gut, be brave and trust in the process.

This has been my experience as an accountant for 10 years, moving away from statutory accounts into new roles managing staff and helping clients develop their businesses. The technical training becomes less important as the complexity increases. We love helping business owners make that transition and we can help you make it too. Get in touch on 01872 300232 or email [email protected].

Hayley Robins
By Hayley Robins Senior Accountant
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