People Respond to Problems in Two Basic Ways
“Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.”
– Roberto Clemente
When faced with challenging problems in their teams, organizations, and communities, people respond in a variety of ways. At one end of the spectrum sit those people who shrink back and say, in essence: “Yes, it’s a big problem, but there’s nothing I can do. It’s not my job. I’m not responsible. I’m not in charge. I can’t make a difference.” People in this group often complain about problems, pontificating ad nauseam about what ought to be done, but they rarely stand up, get involved, or do something constructive to address them.
At the other end of the spectrum there stands a smaller but far more influential group of people. When they see a problem, they take responsibility for addressing the issue. They say to themselves: “This won’t do. I may not be perfect for the role, and it may not be in my job description, but I’m unwilling to just stand by and do nothing. So, I’m going to roll up my sleeves and engage this problem. Who’s with me?”
Little progress comes from the first crowd. It’s the largest faction, but it’s the least influential. People in this group drift along with the status quo, feeling justified in their inaction because, in their view, nothing will change, improvement is unlikely, and the risks aren’t worth the potential for progress. This lackluster response spurs little change or improvement because it fails to challenge the existing state of affairs.
All intentional progress comes from the people in the second group. It’s may be a smaller faction, but it’s the most powerful. Acting as agents of change, they choose to engage the status quo because the potential for progress justifies the risk of taking action. Motivated by this responsible and constructive orientation, they’re willing to put themselves on the line to make a difference.
My mission in life is to convert people in the first group and to empower people in the second one. I do this by helping them build their conversational capacity – their ability to engage in important conversations in a “sweet spot” where candor and courage is balanced with curiosity and humility. Learning to work in this sweet spot is a pivotal ability when it comes to having greater influence and making a constructive impact on the world around us. Why? When our conversational capacity is low, our fear-based and ego-driven reactions overwhelm our good intentions and knock us off balance. When our conversational capacity is high we’re able to remain learning focused and purpose-driven, even under intense pressure.
“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
An organization is a community of discourse. Leadership is about shaping the nature of the discourse. And when we’re exercising real leadership we’re shaping the discourse in the direction of openness, learning, and constructive progress. Building our conversational capacity gives us the power to do this. No matter our status or station, we can play a leading role in building healthier work relationships, teams, organizations, and communities. We can take action and have an impact. We can wield great influence. We have more power than we think.
When faced with challenging problems in their teams, organizations, and communities, people respond in one of two basic ways:
- “There’s nothing I can do.”
- “This won’t do!”
In which group do you stand?
(Adapted from Influence In Action: How To Build Your Conversational Capacity, Do Meaningful Work, and Make a Powerful Difference (McGraw-Hill, 2019).
Craig Weber helps people learn how to stand up, speak out, and make a bigger difference by treating dialogue as a discipline. He’s the author of Conversational Capacity: The Secret to Building Successful Teams that Perform when the Pressure is On (McGraw-Hill, 2013) and Influence In Action: How To Build Your Conversational Capacity, Do Meaningful Work, and Make a Powerful Difference (McGraw-Hill, 2019).
Originally published on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/two-kinds-people-craig-weber/