A friend of mine recently needed an ear to bend and I was happy to lend him mine. He was grappling with a problem but as he shared his story, I realized the solution was simple and I wondered why it hadn’t occurred to him already. Simple solutions to complicated problems are my superpower, after all ?.

Years ago, I oversaw a complex project that involved competing companies hired to work on different parts of the same project. Unfortunately, I had a problem. One company was tasked with work they had not done before, and the other company knew how to do the task but could not. I was stuck. The simple solution would have been to ask the experienced company to complete the task. That wasn’t possible because it wasn’t their original assignment, and they were with a different department in the client’s organization. I was stuck between politics of both the client and consulting companies, the potential loss of revenue to the competing consulting companies, and a potential late delivery on the project because of possible work delays. I was between a rock and a hard place, with no clear path to resolution. I had become so stuck in the problem that even a walk with a cigar didn’t help.

I had a conversation with a friend about the situation. They asked what I would suggest to someone who was in the same situation. It was a simple but clarifying question that forced me to step out of my shoes and into those of a third party. After thinking about it for a minute, the lightbulb went off and I smiled. By detaching myself from the problem, I saw that the answer was not that complicated. I had to create a win-win situation for both companies.

I went back to work and suggested that the company who knew how to do the task train the other company. There was resistance at first, but I explained my thought process and how this would benefit both companies in the long run. The resolution would result in no loss of time, or revenue to either company. Ultimately, everyone jumped on board. The project was completed successfully.

I would have solved the problem eventually, but the conversation with my friend helped me get there faster. By suggesting that I set aside the emotion that comes with having a vested interest in the outcome, I was forced to consider the problem as a third party. This cleared the path for me to think clearly, without concern of potential roadblocks that may impact me negatively. Now, when I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place, I ask myself that same question. I remind myself to detach and find the path to the simplest resolution. It is, my superpower, after all ?.

“Ask yourself often: Am I observing the situation accurately or am I projecting how I feel onto what is happening?” — Yung Pueblo  

What will you detach from this weekend?  

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