“Necessity is the mother of invention” – Plato
Today’s wisdom message is all about being a solutions provider, and no, I’m not talking about a big technology or consulting firm. We all have the power to be a solutions provider . . . to turn frustration into a fix, and often end up in a better place than where we started.
We all come across so many things over the course of a day or week that frustrate us, or are just more complicated than they need to be. Anyone with a job knows that no initiative is ever simple (As Taylor Swift would say: it’s never, ever, ever, like never straightforward). I remember being a year into my time at Procter & Gamble and thinking, when am I going to be able to work on a direct, run-of-the-mill new product introduction? Answer from my trainer: Stop Dreaming. We all crave more time to spend with our family, on our health, or heaven-forbid, relaxing. We have had neighbors whose leaves always make their way into our yard every fall, or clients who don’t see results because they are not committed. Point is: problems, issues, and complexity are everywhere. After identifying these issues (which is often the easy part), we must take it a step further and devise a solution.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/Danilo Rizzuti
The idea of being a solutions provider is really about ownership. When problems arise, are they your problems, or someone else’s? Even if they are someone else’s, can you come up with a solution for the betterment of the team (and your own sanity)? I have stories on this topic that could go on for days. There was a time at P&G when I was enormously frustrated at how difficult it was to get the needed partnership of my colleagues to deliver on my projects. Then I realized that five separate teams were creating and working against their own individual priorities. Problem was, the work of these teams was not mutually exclusive. Everyone needed help & input from the other teams. It wasn’t just me. Folks were spending a ton of time trying to enroll the other teams to move their work forward with little success. One thing was very clear to me from my first day of work: complaining was not an option. So, rather than complaining about the problem or passing it along to my manager, I developed a proposal regarding how projects were resourced. Here’s the magic: whether or not my proposal would be accepted was somewhat irrelevant. The act of thinking through and putting together a potential solution allowed me to:
- Raise the issue with my manager as an opportunity (positive), rather than a problem (negative).
- Look like help, giving my manager something to react to, rather than her having to start from scratch on a solution.
- Look like a leader within the organization
On the health front, I got to the point where I could not have been more frustrated by my inability to have one or two cookies (or whatever treat was in the house), and save the rest for later. Couldn’t do it. Since no one was available to follow me around to stop my binge eating, I had to solve it. I tried many solutions. Putting things in the freezer to slow down my eating didn’t work. So, I had to try again. I finally realized success by keeping all junk food out of the house. If I really, really want it – I have to be willing to hop in the car, drive to the store & get it. Often, this is enough to keep me from binging. Then I had a problem with friends & family bringing over junk food. I had to solve that. It’s often an iterative process, but the key is to focus on solutions.
When I find myself complaining, I stop and tell myself: “Lori, either do something about it, or stop complaining.” Regardless of your personal pain points, here’s what I challenge you to do: the next time a problem arises, think to yourself: “if I was the CEO of this business, this household, this neighborhood, etc. what would I do?” After all . . . you ARE the CEO of your life.