“Most people prefer a problem they can’t fix to a solution they don’t like”
This sentence is mad…. but there is a certain truth to it.
Lee Thayer is the author of several books on the practice of Leadership. He was a big proponent of working to integrate thinking, being and doing into a more complete mode of leading people and organisations. Lee was a mentor and inspiration for many Vistage Chairs.
Why might we prefer allowing a problem to persist than to take the steps to solve the problem?
Why is this:
Delay the Pain: The consequences of the problem will probably be felt most strongly in the future, whilst the discipline to put into action the solution requires pain today.
Fear of Uncertainty: A persistent problem may be challenging, but it is familiar, and we know what to expect.
Locus of Control: It is easier to accept a problem that we have no control over than to accept a solution that requires conflict or change, or the involvement of other human beings in putting into action.
The best way to approach being human is often to learn to laugh at ourselves. We have the capacity to be rational, goal seeking individuals… and also the capacity to be nuts.
It drives me nuts when someone just wants to use me as a sounding board as they share their problems.
I find it hard to listen to someone who just wants to tell me about the problem. They have a lot of energy and passion to describe their problem, but I can’t get them to engage in positive ideas for how they can move the situation to a better place.
I am empathetic for a while, then I get tired and tune out.
The Approach of Leadership Coach Dan Rockwell
Dan Rockwell in his recent TEDx talk shared a scheme for bringing a conversation away from problem description. When people call for his help, they want to talk about their problem. He has 45 minutes to make a difference… he needs to get the conversation moving on from the problem. How?
He uses the acronym: PITSIT’N
Problem – Problem “Other people are doing bad things”
Imagine – Imagine if things were going perfectly. What would it be like? (they have no idea)
Trying – What are you trying to make things better?
Stop – What do you need to stop? (try harder doing the same things is never a real strategy) “You seem smarter than this” repeating same and becoming more frustrated
Imperfect – What is the imperfect behaviour that will move this forward? (little steps, trying little positive things, “if you can’t see it, it doesn’t count”, “we don’t need a touchdown, we just need a first down”) What are possible behaviours that will move this forward?
Try – What would you like to try this week? How, when? “Pretend I’m that person and say it to me”
Next week – Next week, I am going to ask you four questions: What did you do, how did it work, what did you learn, what are you going to try next time?
Watch Dan’s TEDx Talk
What tools work for you? How do you decide when somebody wants you just to listen to their frustration, or when they really are interested in your coaching to make progress?
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