Although most people know that the biggest headaches in construction are budgets and schedules, the true experts know that the key to a successful commercial construction project is how a leader solves the problems that will inevitably arise. From design to code, how to manage delays to political and personality issues, there are over 100,000 decisions that are made throughout a construction project. The truth of the matter is, the difference between a coveted grand opening and being blackballed in the industry comes down to your leader’s decision-making skills. Scary, right?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned throughout my formation as an architect and in over 20 years in the construction industry, is that solving problems is the top skill any professional can have. Here are some of my top tips to develop your problem-solving skills:

Do Your Homework

When making a decision, one of the most important things you have to do is to take your time to gather all the necessary information.

Everyone has their own way of processing information; find the one that works best for you and flush out all the information. You can be visual, use charts, write or talk it out, whatever option works for you – just make sure to have a tool to evaluate all the information and get the answer. Seeing all the information in front of you makes a huge difference.

Don’t Let Your Gut Decide

There’s a huge difference between being quick and being impulsive. You want to strive toward solving the problem as quickly as possible, correctly.

Developing a systematic approach to seeking solutions will help you go as fast as you can, correctly. Take your time to go through the necessary steps to make the best decision. You can cross check the analytical answer with a gut-check, but don’t rely solely on your gut to make decisions. Going with your gut can cost you a lot of money in construction.

Rip The Band-Aid Off

Don’t delay decisions once you know they are the correct course of action for you hoping that they will rectify. The problem will not dissolve itself. The more you wait, the more you expose yourself to spending additional money, delaying the project and damaging relationships.

As soon as you identify the issue, just rip the band-aid off: Confront the issue and start processing the resolution.

If it’s a personnel issue, remember the old adage “Slow to hire, quick to fire”. During the hiring process, make sure candidates fit your culture, your team and core values. But the minute their attitude might toxify the team, don’t hesitate to end your professional relationship with them.

Being Reactive Vs. Proactive

If you feel you’re always putting out fires, step away from the issue, focus, breathe and break down the issue step by step. Problem-solve what’s on your plate and then move onto preventive mode. Too many of us live reacting to issues and then just collapse from working overtime to put out fires. Once your current issues are resolved, don’t give yourself enough time for a fresh batch of issues to arise. Go into preventive mode and get ahead of the issues.

It doesn’t matter what industry you work on, problem-solving skills is a highly coveted soft skill that will help you make better decisions professionally – and personally. The recommendations I present here are a great jumping off point but don’t forget that you don’t live on an island. Collaboration is a key element to conflict resolution. Come back next week for my top recommendations on working with a team to make decisions and solve issues.

For more tips on this topic, check out my episode on the Dr. Jaime Show on Finding Solutions for Success