Are You Solving the Right Problem? 

When you feel stuck in your career, the most crucial part of getting unstuck is identifying the problem you’re trying to solve.

Although this might seem obvious, in this high-paced society, we often forget to take time to want to jump straight to the solutions.

This article provides an outline of the method I use. If you are not ready for coaching yet, you can use this article as a reminder not to skip this phase.

Why is defining the right problem so important?

A key benefit of taking time for problem analysis is that it ensures that “root causes,” not just the symptoms of the problem, are identified and subsequently addressed during coaching. 

Suppose we would immediately jump to strategies and actions. In that case, we risk only addressing the effects of the problem and not its underlying causes and therefore are unlikely to produce sustainable results.

Three steps to defining the right problem 

In light of this, I apply a structured, step-by-step approach to identifying the problem in my coaching. This way, we ensure that we address the right question for your specific career challenge, giving you the best possible chance of achieving sustainable results.

1. Describe the case

For every client, we focus on describing the specific case. As the client explains her case, I jot down all the facts that I hear in the story. At this stage, it is crucial not to make any assumptions and stay with the facts.

2. Ask questions 

After a client has explained her case to me, I start asking questions about the case to clarify unclear information. 

Things I aim to clarify are for example, definitions of terms used by the client. We all have our interpretations of words. For example, when a client tells me she wants to be successful, I always ask what success means to her. 

3. Formulate a hypothesis

After gathering all the information, we hypothesize what the problem is and test it against such as “If this problem is solved, will it help you reach your goal?”

4. Define the problem

Lastly, if we are both sure that we found the right problem to solve, we can move to the problem-solving part of the coaching trajectory.


Things to keep in mind when defining the problem

Three things to keep in mind when you are defining the problem:

  • Take your time to explain the problem clearly;
  • Keep a curious mindset throughout the process;
  • Challenge assumptions.


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About Lian

Hi, I’m Lian Angelino, a certified Career coach passionate about helping women move through their careers and daily lives with more ease and meaning.

I combine my background in Work Psychology, Mental Health Sciences, and Leadership development to help you get clear about what makes you tick and gain clarity around difficult career choices.

If you would like help in searching for your next role, finding clarity around a career challenge, or are looking for a structured way to approach your job search, learn more about my services here

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