Be the Solution
Author: Georgina Barrick
A few weeks ago, I was driving to work during morning rush hour traffic.
Loadshedding had affected robots, so traffic was heavy and very slow. Tempers were frayed and drivers were becoming inconsiderate - not a great way to start the day. Along my route, I needed to cross an intersection on William Nicol Drive where 16 lanes converge – which, even on good days can take time. Yet, cars were moving because a young girl in running gear was doing a sterling job of directing traffic. She had obviously been out on her morning run, seen the traffic snarling and stepped in to help. She did this for no benefit, at considerable risk to herself and, in doing so, became part of the solution.
Lately, I have also noticed unemployed people taking responsibility for keeping intersections clean and car guards attempting to fill potholes. Someone in my area has even put up a warning sign near a huge hole that formed after heavy rains.
For me, this is the interesting thing about South Africans. We mutter and complain but, when the chips are down, we jump in.
It's easy to find fault. To see problems and focus on the negative.
There's a lot of negativity, stress and pressure everywhere. It's tempting to dive right in, claim the victim role and let yourself off the hook.
It's harder to roll up your sleeves and fix the problem. To actively choose to take ownership and do something about it. To become part of the solution – and not the problem.
I firmly believe that the 'solution' space is the one that we all need to work hard to inhabit. After all, I think it's in our DNA to attitude shift, when needed, and to look at situations through a different lens.
So, how do we do this?
Accept responsibility and become a solution provider.
The first step in making a real difference is to move away from thinking that issues are 'someone else's problem'. Problems often arise that are not of our making, but they still affect us. And, when they do, we have a choice: Sit back and complain - or look at what action can be taken to help solve the problem.
Recently, I was chatting to one of our candidates who was complaining that her employer had no systems or processes in place in her department. I challenged her as she had not suggested, or attempted to implement, any solutions. We need to start taking responsibility and owning the solutions that we can be a part of.
Accepting responsibility opens up opportunity and creates a better future for all.
Take time to know what you want – and then take steps to get it.
Speak up. Whether you've witnessed an injustice, are annoyed about poor service or feel that a bad decision should be challenged, don't angrily mutter about it quietly. Speak out.
Share ideas. If you believe that a process could be improved or have a solution to a tough business issue, give your feedback or input to the right people.
Volunteer. As Margaret Mead said, 'never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has'.
Change your mindset.
It's tough out there. But, approaching every issue as a passive bystander isn't going to make it any easier.
Negativity blocks clear thinking – which affects the quality of our decision-making. If we concentrate on being part of the solution, we open ourselves up to the positive and can access decision-making skills that aren't available when we're living in a negative state.
Simply put, focusing on the positive – on what's going right and how we can find solutions – gives us space to breathe.
Look at the big picture.
When we're deep-diving into negative territory, we stop seeing the wood for the trees. Our world view becomes limited and solutions seem impossible.
However, when we become future-focused, with a clear sense of where we're going, others start to buy into the big picture – and we all start moving in forward.
As I said at the start of this piece, it's harder to be part of the solution, to stand your ground and get your hands dirty making things right. However, I believe that it's the only way to navigate challenges – if it causes you discomfort, get involved to fix it.
It's also a lot more rewarding when you do. I'm quite sure that the young girl directing traffic had more endorphins from the experience than she would have gained on her run, knowing how many lives she touched with her solution-orientated attitude.
Strength to us all…