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

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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