A friend and I were debating what “should” be done about the influx of migrant families at the Mexican border:

A: “How can any office be expected to process 4,000 applications in an 8-hour day?”

B: “Who said the processor could only be open for 8 hours? There are 24 hours in a day.”

A: “Well, who would provide all that staffing?”

B: “What about redirecting all the troops that are there? They could do other things.”

A: “You still couldn’t process all that paperwork.”

B: “Why not have the applicants do most of the paperwork in advance?”

A: “How could they do that? They don’t have access to computers.”

B: “Why not set up banks of computers to allow them to do so?”

And on it went. Lots of reasons why something wouldn’t work and lots of ideas about how to reframe the solution so it could.

Take the political nature of the subject out of it and think about the principles behind the banter. If you really want to do something, often you become much more creative and ambitious about finding a way to accomplish it. If there is a will, there usually is a way.

It helps to start your tension-laden conversations by sharing thoughts about the reasons rather than the methods. If you can get clarity on the values that are driving the thinking, there is a far greater chance that you can align the actions, but without that understanding, “I can’t” often means “I won’t”.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

Dr. beth triplett is the owner of leadership dots, offering coaching, training and consulting for new supervisors. She also shares daily lessons on her leadershipdots blog. Her work is based on the leadership dots philosophy that change happens through the intentional connecting of small steps in the short term to the big picture in the long term.

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