One of the television shows Melissa and I watch is “NCIS.” The story line in a recent episode involved a young man telling about his father, who had died in another episode. The young man said that, before he died, his father attempted to teach him to “be the solution.” That is, don’t be the problem, and further, if there is a problem – fix it. This resonated with me in terms of being an employer. Over the many years I’ve had people working for me, many have come to me with problems. Or, I’ve asked them to do something and they have quickly responded “I’ve never done that; I don’t know how….” There are variations on this response, but this is a response no boss wants to hear, ever. It may be true, that is, the task may be something the person has never done, but there are ways to figure out how to do most things. These days, you can even learn to tie a necktie on YouTube! What a boss wants to hear is something like, “I’ll get right on that and figure it out. I’ll report back to you.” That is being the solution. Find the solution, search for it, ask others for help, make phone calls, send emails, but don’t dump it back on the boss, or the team. If you can’t figure out the solution 100%, make suggestions, report your findings, ask for help, but don’t become the problem, solve it, or give it your best try!
“Be the solution” is similar to “Be the change you want to see in the world” (with the latter saying commonly misattributed to Mahatma Gandhi, who, according to multiple sources, never said anything of the sort). The idea behind both of these statements is that, for positive change to occur, one must be an active participant in the change process. That is, one must not sit around idly while waiting on others to solve the problem, change the world, etc. For the past 5 wonderful years, David and I have had the privilege of employing Megan, who is an active proponent of being the solution to whatever issue we face as a company. Unlike many of her predecessors at Magnus, Megan never says, “I can’t do that,” “I don’t know where to begin to find this information,” or “I guess you know I’ve never done this before.” Instead, Megan thoughtfully considers every request David and I make, then she starts working on a solution, or an answer, or a repair. When she needs advice, she is quick to ask for it, but without passing the buck, so to speak, back to David or me. Accepting responsibility for one’s actions, and the impact of these actions on other people, often requires working on things outside one’s small comfort zone. People like Megan do not contribute to the problem; instead, they contribute to the solution. Think about this as it applies to your own life. Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?