Is That Your Problem to Solve?

Is That Your Problem to Solve?

This one’s for the thinkers and problem-solvers. Do you love a good challenge to think things through, connect the dots and come up with a solution?

Me, too. And that leads to burnout, fast. I didn’t know I had a problem until my friend and client, Gwynne, a former lawyer turned non-profit executive Director, pointed it out to me.

Let me explain.

Problem Solver

See, I had just finished speaking at a women’s conference and chatted with attendees as I packed up my belongings. That’s when a room monitor approached me with an iPhone in his hand.

He asked, “Stacey, is this your iPhone?”

One glance and knew it wasn’t mine, but quickly checked my bag to make sure.

“No, that’s not mine,” I said.

“Someone left it in the room,” he said and walked back to the front of the meeting room.

Without hesitation, I followed him to help figure out the case of the missing iPhone.

Not My Problem to Solve

Gwynne immediately grabbed my arm and swung me around to face her. “Stacey,” she said, “That’s not your problem to solve.”

I froze. Holy … she’s right. And suddenly a flood of relief washed over me as I repeated her words, “Not my problem to solve.”

From that moment on, I started to ask, “Is that my problem to solve?” I got crystal clear on the problem my business tries to solve: creating human connection in a digital world and said “no” to everything else.

For instance, when a colleague reached out for career counseling, I took time to listen to her challenges and thought, “This is not my problem to solve. But I know someone who can help.” So I made a referral and the relationship worked out successfully.

Making that referral felt just as good, if not better, than saying “yes” to the coaching work.

Question Everything

Do you love to solve problems, make connections, take on challenges and figure things out? Me, too. But if there is one lesson I learned over the past decade, it’s that trying to solve every problem that crosses my path becomes overwhelming. I’m one person with limited emotional, physical and mental capacity to take on every challenge that comes my way.

And so are you, whether you lead a team or own a business.

Now, you might be thinking, “But I love to solve problems!” or “My team depends on me to solve problems.”

You may also wonder, “Is she telling me not to solve problems?”

I’m not suggesting that you STOP solving problems. That probably wouldn’t feel natural. However, sometimes there are, as mentioned above, other ways to be helpful.

There is good news

As a leader, your responsibility is not necessarily to solve all of the problems but to make sure people have the tools and support they need to come up with solutions on their own.

So, before saying “yes” to the next problem that comes your way, picture me taking your arm, swinging you around and asking, “Is that your problem to solve?” Then get curious. Do you have to take on the task or can you delegate or make a referral?

It may not be your problem to solve. And wouldn’t that be a relief.

Talk to Me!

Are you a problem solver? How do you set boundaries to ensure that you have time for what matters most in your business or life?

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About the blog

Humor, stories, and insights, delivered 2x per month, to perform without the pressure.

Topics include mental health, work, human connection, creativity and more.


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