Leadership Gift Problem Solving Rule #1: When you discover a problem, report it first to the person who can do something about it.
At first glance, this seems like purely obvious advice. But just think how much time and energy every one of us spends talking about — and listening to — complaints about problems that we can’t possibly solve!
People with knowledge of the Leadership Gift know that venting, dissing, and ranting solve nothing. When they have a problem, they take it directly to someone they believe is in the best position to do something about it.
When the problem results from a person violating a norm or agreement, Leadership Gift masters address their concern to that person at the first possible opportunity.
When the problem is embedded in a system or organization, they do their best to identify the part of the system that can best act on the problem and voice their concerns there.
Here are some useful distinctions:
- Avoid Creating a Second Problem. Complaining to someone else, without first giving the accused a chance to respond to your concern, is actually an act of treason. Your relationship with the accused will then have two problems to overcome, instead of one!
- Be Approachable. Let your associates know you only have good-will intentions by your actions toward them. Tell them you know you’re human and prone to mistakes and that, when they notice a problem with your behavior, you want them to let you know as soon as possible, so you can adjust your behavior.
- Ask for Help. If you don’t know who to approach or how to approach them with your problem, resist the temptation just to kvetch about it to the nearest person. Instead, ask an associate to coach you in figuring out the best approach. If you can’t state the problem without blaming it on someone, tell your coach, “Here’s my story about how I’ve been victimized….” Then ask for help to navigate from a position of victimization to one of responsibility and choice.
- Be Compassionately Intolerant. When friends come to you to complain about a problem that’s not yours to solve, show compassion for both the abused and the accused. Then, instead of enflaming the problem, ask the friend (1) if they’ve taken their problem to its source, and (2) if you can coach them in finding a responsible resolution to the dilemma. Understand that friends may want you to collude with them in their victimization and may not be ready to take responsibility for their part of the problem. Be prepared for them to dismiss your assistance if you’re not an easy vent.
Get Started With This Week’s 5-Minute Stretch:
Choose your Stretch(es) this week based on the areas in which you need the greatest gain:
A. Select a problem in which you feel victimized. Take it to the person you think can best act on it.
B. Instead of complaining about your victimization to an accomplice who will help you stay there, ask someone to coach you in figuring out how to move to a solution.
C. When someone brings their victimization to you: (1) feel compassion, (2) refuse to collude, (3) ask if they’ve approached the person who can solve it. Offer to help figure out how to do that. If they’re not ready, repeat steps one and two.
D. Take whatever actions are necessary to show your teammates you’re approachable.
I wish you a world of productive relationships — and I welcome your comments and questions!
Christopher Avery, PhD , is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.
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