Convert Problems into a Lesson, an Opportunity, or a Gift

By Ann
August 11, 2021

When we face difficult situations, it’s natural to grumble. Why did this happen? It’s awful! Some folks spend more time complaining than they do in looking for ways to move ahead.

We’re all feeling the impact of a global pandemic. People are sick and dying. Who’s to say this is not a bad situation? You probably know people who have been sick or have died. I know I have.

The response is the same.....

Regardless of the size of the “problem”, the response is the same. You can look at it as an intractable situation with no way out or you can see it as 1) a lesson, 2) an opportunity, 3) a gift.

Just the facts.....

Without judgment, look at the situation with clear eyed discernment. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It is a situation with facts. Do not attach emotion or value to the facts.

These are facts:  The world is experiencing a pandemic where millions of people are affected by a new virus. People are sick and people are dying.

These are facts:  Businesses have openings to hire for work that needs to be done. It is difficult to find people to fill these openings. Where’s the opportunity? What’s the gift in this situation? What’s the lesson?

We’ve been trained to look for the problem and find a solution. It’s a bit short sited and is not a generative conversation. It’s like seeing a problem as a nail and a hammer as the only solution. There are other tools in the toolbox such as a paint brush, a screwdriver, or a carpenter’s level. Painting a picture with a hammer rarely produces extraordinary results.

Formula to convert problems into a lesson, an opportunity, or a gift:

  1. State the facts without judgment (“Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”)
  2. Be curious about creative ways to deal with the situation                             
  3. Innovate and do things differently than before—ZOOM or working from home
  4. Invite diverse people to contribute ideas—customers, chairman of the board, CEO, admin assistant, front line worker, vendors who deliver to your company
  5. Explore the lessons from this experience
  6. Remain open to consider weird ideas
  7. Be willing to release “we’ve always done it this way”
  8. Look beneath the surface for the reasons people disagree
  9. Accept there is no going back to “normal”
  10. Act with kindness

Since its founding, the meeting format for monthly meetings of the Women Presidents’ Organization has been in person. To serve our members and to stay healthy, the chapter chairs hosted ZOOM meetings in 2020 and 2021. The opportunity for me as the chair of WPO in Columbia is to learn new technology, engage participants in creative ways such as breakout rooms, create connections and intimacy with technology, provide convenient meeting opportunities for members two hours away, and support each other in heartfelt ways to navigate business challenges. We’re now positioned to skillfully host hybrid meetings, which is a phenomenon here to stay, not only for WPO but businesses around the world.

By strengthening your mental muscles to look for the lesson, the opportunity, or the gift in a challenging situation, you create a more positive environment. This has an impact on three important areas: peak performance as a leader, peace of mind/wellness, and healthy relationships. Converting problems into lessons, opportunities or gifts is an inside job.

© 2021 Ann Elliott

2 comments on “Convert Problems into a Lesson, an Opportunity, or a Gift”

  1. This post was an eye-opener for me as a teacher because I could use every one of the items in your formula when dealing with many of the problems I’ve had in the classroom - really everything from changing an assignment to dealing with disciplining a student!

    I especially like 4-8 when dealing with a discipline situation. It would be great to sit down with a student and his administrator to discuss issues we’re having in class and get to the bottom of the problem rather than just slapping a kid with another detention.

    If your formula can work in a classroom, I feel sure it can work in virtually any business!

  2. Thanks for your comments, Louise. As someone I admire and respect as a gifted teacher, your words mean a lot to me. It comes through loud and clear that you care deeply about your students. Often the instructions on how to get out of the box are written on the outside of the box.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *