Project Practitioners > Seek to Solve Problems

Seek to Solve Problems

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


Back in June 2018, I wrote an article laying out ten characteristics every successful project manager possesses. As the questions and comments rolled in, I began wondering if I should dive a little deeper into each characteristic to show how to become better in each.

The result is a ten-week article series. The second characteristic I listed was “seek to solve problems.” Here is what I originally wrote:


“One of the fastest and best ways to separate yourself from the masses is to establish yourself as someone who makes situations better, not worse

When times are good, it’s the perfect opportunity to start seeking. There are no oncoming issues you need to steer clear of or solve. No pressure or stress is surrounding an immediate response. You have time to sit back and observe.

Look for problems. A good way to do so is trying to kill the project. What issues or problems could arise that would halt production? Which team members are lagging causing delays up the road? Once you have some answers, start to develop responses so if, and when, these problems come up, you already have the solutions.”


Now, let’s figure out how to become better at seeking out problems.

  1. Find an environment worth the problems

Problems will always exist. Find an environment worth having those problems.

The Manitou Incline in Colorado Springs, CO is a popular hike. The climb gains 2,000 feet of elevation in just under a mile. The thought is putting in this hard work to get to the top is going to be worth the view. After two hours of climbing what feels like a vertical wall, the views are alright at best. The environment is not worth the struggle.

Take this example to the office. An environment that thrives on anxiety and always looking around for more to do is tiresome. There is always something to do. During the weekends (your supposed time off), you are expected to answer phone calls and look at emails. This nonstop environment thriving on anxiety better be worth the payoff. That payoff can be financial, social, or internal. If you find yourself questioning, find a different environment.


  1. Realize obstacles are your chance to level up

If you play video games, you know wandering around a map with no enemies or obstacles popping up means you are lost. You have drifted from the game’s objective and are on your own. However, if you start battling hordes of enemies, you are on the right path and progressing through the game.

The same can be said about project management. If you find yourself aimlessly twiddling your thumbs throughout the day, you are not progressing. Obstacles and challenges are your opportunities to level up. Gain some experience points.

Actively seeking out these opportunities changes your game dramatically. Most people wait for the challenge to come to them then deal with it. If you are reaching out to find these difficulties, you will start to accumulate vastly more experience than your colleagues. Know what you do not know, then learn what you do not know.


  1. Things do not disappear on their own

For problems to be resolved, you must take action. My organization receives tenant requests at all hours of the day and night. The leak does not disappear by magic. The light does not automatically start to work again. These issues need action otherwise they persist.

Relate this to a problematic stakeholder. If you allow them to continue their path of havoc, they will destroy those in its way. However, if you reach out and keep them informed, they begin to settle down. Keeping them in the loop and up to date solves the problem.

Without action, that tenant or stakeholder can cause more damage than necessary. Nip it in the bud by doing something. Any action, in this case, is better than no action. Sometimes problems do resolve themselves. The argument loses steam over time. When a water heater starts to spray water everywhere, you must take action immediately. Hesitation compounds the issue quickly.



Be proactive. In a state of calm is the perfect opportunity to start looking for problems. When the inbox goes quiet, and the phone stops ringing, begin to look around for what could be coming next.

Old work orders are an issue for my organization. A tenant may have submitted something months ago thinking it is being handled when we have not seen it. We have an expectation the tenant will follow up if an issue is not resolved, but that is more uncommon than you may believe. Some people will have a leaking faucet or shower for months without reaching out to us again.

Sifting through the old work orders is a way to proactively prevent further damage to the property. Waiting for the tenants to reach out could turn a drip leak into floors becoming ponds.

Changing your perspective on challenges will help you seek out more. If you feel they are a burden or someone else’s responsibility, they will go unchecked. However, if you view them as a chance to level up and gain some experience, you will take on any and all comers.

Lastly, make sure the environment you are in makes sense for you. Are the challenges worth the effort? Are you compensated adequately? Does the position reward you outside of money? If not, you are more likely to let things pass and not actively seek out opportunities. Find the system that works for you and becoming more engaged and proactive will come with the territory.

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