According to a 2010 Critical Skills Survey, employers say they need employees who are equipped with skills beyond the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic to grow their business. In other words, you need two main skills: critical thinking and problem solving.

In all of my years managing employees, I've seen firsthand that some can do it and some cannot. For the ones who cannot, I've noticed — after discussing with them the nature of the problem that they are going through at least one of three symptoms:

  1. They feel afraid and uncomfortable with the problem and wish they didn't have to face it.
  2. They're not confident in their answer and assume the one they've come up with is wrong, when it has to be the right one.
  3. They're searching for someone/something to blame.

In short, employees aren't confident in their preparation and answers to problems. So how can they get the confidence back? We know encountering problems is inevitable in the workplace, but how do we solve them effectively?

Whether the problem is large or small, teach your employees these quick tips to assess the situation:

Identify the problem: Peter Drucker once said, "Don't focus on the finding the answer. Focus on defining the question." What exactly is the challenge you are facing? Write it out clearly in detail. Look for the root of the problem rather than get sidetracked by the problems symptoms of unhappiness, anxiety, worry, etc.

It's important to look at the problem from a variety of perspectives. Try changing the negative to a positive, so you look at it with an open mind become a creative thinker.

Strategize and plan a solution: What must your solution contain to solve the problem? What would your ideal solution look like? Just as your first step, write it out clearly in detail. If your problem is simple, the solution should be obvious. If it's complicated, the solution will be more complex to understand. Developing a plan will help you keep the process on track and find the solution quickly.

Assess your options: Always prepare for the best and worst scenarios. If your solution doesn't work, prepare to give it another try. Set a schedule for deadlines on how and when you will solve the problem. With this, you will know if you're on track or if you're falling behind.

Execute the solution: Develop a sense of urgency and get to work. The faster you move toward the solution, the easier the problem will be solved and the more creative you will be. You can solve any problem by using your creative thinking and then taking action steadily and persistently until you attain your objective.

Using these tips and being able to critically think of solutions to problems that arise will allow your employees to improve and become more confident. It's inevitable that challenges will arise on the job, so just make sure that they are being handled practically and objectively.