Category Archives: Coach's Corner: Creating a Compelling Future!

5 Practical Steps For Drowning Your Problems

There’s an old saying that contains a great deal of wisdom:

When problem solving, don’t just put out the fire – find the guy with the match!

Another saying admonishes us to make sure that we solve problems completely. It simply says:

Hold every problem under water until it drowns!

Learning Effective Problem Solving

Both of these statements are aimed at communicating one thing to those of us who are in the problem solving business – and that is that far too often, problems are never solved because people are addressing the symptoms instead of identifying and killing the real root cause.

My forty plus years of experience as both a technical and business problem solver have taught me some powerful lessons. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned when it comes to effective problem solving.

  1. Most of the time, the root of the problem is deeper than you think. Just like a pesky dandelion in your yard, the flower (symptom) waves in the wind, but the root of the plant (the real cause) is hiding deep in the ground. You can chop the top off all you want, but until you extract or kill the root, the plant (problem) is going to keep coming back.
  2. Be patient. Taking the time to think things through, and being careful not to overreact, is important in the problem solving process. Cool, logical, analytical heads always prevail.
  3. Listen to the process. Every business process has a story to tell if you listen closely. Observations, data collection and analysis, and a healthy dose of common sense can be integrated to create a picture of what is going on. Just as a doctor uses the skill of observation, combined with information in the form of test results, to diagnose what is wrong with a patient, so must you combine all of the information you can gather to understand the problem with which you are dealing.
  4. Test your theories. The ultimate test in solving a problem is not “did it go away.” Where the rubber meets the road is in answering the question, “Can you turn it on and off?” Being able to turn a problem on and off means that you have identified the causative factors that, under the right conditions, allow the problem to manifest itself.
  5. Verify effectiveness of your solutions. When you finally put corrective actions in place, always monitor the process for a period if time to make sure that the problem never rears its ugly head again.

Need help with problem solving? Give us a call at 203.599.1467, or email us at We’re here to help!


©2014 by Gary L. Smith and Optimum Performance Technologies, LLC ( All rights reserved.

Process Improvement

How much of your time spent working in your business is directly related to process improvement? Do you view it as a necessary evil, or do you treat it as a critically necessary and beneficial activity that needs to be part of the lifeblood of your business?

In my experience over the years as a consultant, I have found two things related to most business:

1. They do not fully embrace the need for continuous process improvement. They do not see it as a way to (a) grow and profit now and (b) prepare for rainy days ahead.

2. When difficult economic times occur, what little process improvement is being done within the framework of the organization is curtailed because management feels that they have to tighten their belts and eliminate any unnecessary activities.

Hear me loud and clear when I say that the future growth and profitability of your business will be directly related to the degree to which you relentlessly pursue process improvement. It does not matter if you are factory producing hard goods for sale to your customers, or a legal firm producing contracts for your clients – process improvement must become a hard-wired way of life in your business if you are going to be more competitive in your marketplace and more profitable than others who compete against you.

We live in a dog-eat-dog world of global competition. Only the best will survive. If you want to be the best, both now and into the future, you will learn to make process improvement one of the core values upon which your business is founded.

At Optechs, process improvement is one of our core competencies. We stand ready and able to help train and mentor your people in the continuous and never ending process of improving your business. Email us at, or call us at 203.599.1467 for a FREE consultation.

Paying It Forward

As we begin the holiday season with Thanksgiving this coming week, many of us will be gathering with our families to spend time eating inordinate amounts of food, watching tons of TV (The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, football, and sentimental Christmas movies), and enjoying each other’s company.

As you take this short “time-out” from the your normally hectic and demanding lives, can I ask you to do something? I would ask you to do something for me – but it’s really something that you should – and need to – do for yourself. That something is to pause for just a few minutes – maybe when you find yourself quietly sitting by the fire – or perhaps when you take the dog for a long walk after eating far too much turkey – and to reflect on both your personal development and personal success this past year.

As you reflect on 2013, I want you to take your mind off of yourself. Forget about your problems and your worries. As you clear your mind, I want you to ask yourself a couple of very important, critical questions:

Is the world a better place because I existed in 2013?

Are there people – loved ones, family, friends, associates – into whom I have poured myself to make their lives better?

Why are these questions so very important? Because the answers to them define who we are as people, and because they ultimately determine how high we rise during our sojourn on planet earth.

I read a book a number of years ago by Guy Rice Dowd, a teacher of the year from one of the mid-western states. The book was written from a Christian perspective and it contained a great deal of wisdom. One of the statements from that book that has both haunted and blessed me through the years is this: “You only love God as much as the person you love the least.”

Even if you’re not a Christian, can you see the richness of this statement? At its core, this simple statement calls us to set ourselves and our self-centered and self-serving desires aside – in favor of serving others. We are called to do this for two very important reasons: First and foremost, we are called to do it because it is the right thing to do; Second, we should want to do it because when we do, the blessings and rewards we receive are so much more than we give.

So – as you celebrate this Thanksgiving – begin thinking about 2014, and accept a personal challenge from me to make it a year abounding in service to others. You’ll be glad you did.

Life Is A Gift

Life Is A Gift

I read a quote this morning that really stirred me. It simply says:

You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.

As you think about things like personal development, EQ, and personal leadership, consider the following:

How do you view your life? Is it something to be treasured, enjoyed, and lived to the fullest – or is it a drudgery, something that drags you down and causes you both headaches and heartaches?

We all face challenges in life and, as strange as it may sound, we wouldn’t be who we are without them. The main concern I have is answering the question, “How do we respond to life’s challenges?” Do we believe that challenges are nothing more than opportunities to learn – obstacles to be overcome as part of this amazing sojourn that we have been blessed with here on planet earth? Or do we see challenges as those things meant to bring us down, to defeat us, and to keep us from enjoying life to the fullest?

When I consider the quote above, I realize that we all are strong enough to live the life we’ve been given – if we don’t do it in our own strength alone. For me, knowing that there is a God, that he cares deeply for me, and that he has promised that he will never give me more than I can handle, is all I need to get out of bed every morning and run the race of life with all of the gusto I can muster.

From where do you draw your strength for living life? Are you living the life you’ve always dreamed about? Are you actively and positively creating more and more abundance for you and those around you? If not, maybe it’s time to examine the source of your strength for daily living.

Are You A Crank?

We all get irritable and cranky sometimes. That seems to be the nature of us “less than perfect” humans. The question that is the title of this article, however, is intended to address those who experience regular, and perhaps over-the-top, irritability. We need to focus on understanding and fixing the source of this problem as part of our personal development strategy.

If you find yourself being irritable more than usual, there may be a couple of causes.

The first is stress. Stress weighs you down, drains your energy, weakens your health, and invites you to be cranky. Stress can be brought on by several things:

1. Relational issues: arguing, division, and bitterness with those for whom you care.
2. Excessive issues: overworking, overplaying, and overspending.
3. Deficiencies: not getting enough, rest, nutrition, or exercise.

We all must realize that life is a marathon, not a sprint. This means that we must balance, prioritize, and pace ourselves. Too often we run full steam ahead, attempting to do what seems right at that particular moment, only to wind up gasping for air, tied up in knots, and ready to snap. The resulting increase in pressure can wear away at our patience.

The second cause of irritability is, strangely enough, selfishness. When you are irritable, the heart of the problem is primarily a problem of the heart. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” If your heart is not right, then neither will your response to others be appropriate.

So how are we to address the challenges posed by our irritability? Here are three suggestions:

1. Choose today to react to tough circumstances in caring ways instead of irritated venom.
2. Begin making a list of areas where you need to add margin – a measure of slack – into your life, so that you have the opportunity to both think and recharge your batteries.
3. List any wrong motivations that you need to permanently release from your life.