Monday, May 6, 2013

Problem Solving - Choose Your Solution Wisely

Last week I was meeting someone at a coffee shop in one of Canada’s primary coffee chains and sat down at the only table available.

Noticing it was covered in crumbs, I proceeded to sweep the table clean when I realized that in fact, the “crumbs” were small dead flies – about 30 or 40 of them.

Having had a few issues at this particular coffee shop before (which I had reported to staff but which weren’t acted upon) and knowing someone who worked in corporate for this chain, I decided to take action that I knew would produce a result instead of wasting my breath with the staff.

I took a picture of the dead flies and SMS’d it to my colleague in corporate.

The corporate folks acted swiftly and decisively (which I knew they would).

Returning to the same coffee shop for the first time in a week, I noticed that when some customers pulled out their smartphone, the staff was quick to tell them that picture-taking was not allowed even though the customers were not taking pictures.  As a result, I noticed a few awkward moments between customers and staff and a lot of poor assumptions being made.

It appears that the solution to the little dilemma I created last week when I reported the dead flies was to be more aggressive on cracking down on how violations are captured.

Perhaps if the business owner in question was as quick to manage the store more effectively and proactively, the need to finally send a photo wouldn’t have been necessary.

Meanwhile, I now see that the business owner is not only not proactive in effectively managing their business but they are paranoid as well.  Covering up future issues (and the reporting of them) appears to be a key priority.

It reminds me of how some people feel about breaking the law – that their actions are not illegal unless they are caught.

Stuff happens

In business, as in Life, it is important that we do the best we can to proactively meet or exceed the expectations of others.  On the occasions when we don’t achieve such an intention, it is critical that the action we take demonstrates to the other person that we really care about resolving the problem to everyone’s satisfaction.

Since problems are often inevitable, how we address them is often as important (if not more) than the existence of the problem itself and sends a clear message as to how much we really value the relationships that we create.

How do you resolve challenges that are often inevitable?

Do you go out of your way to acknowledge and fix the issue with the other person, showing others that you care about their perception of you and your relationship with them, or do you put your energy into other areas, including ignoring or burying the issue?

The choices you make become an important predictor regarding your future success – personal and professional. 

The actions you take based on the choices that resonate with you will speak much louder than any intention you may claim to have.  Failure to do “the right thing” may also create more issues, as it did for the customers in the coffee shop today who were accused of doing something that they were not.

How much value do you place on your relationships?

How do you know?

More importantly, how do they know?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum: In reflecting upon one customer who was challenged today, it occurred to me that this customer is a regular who usually sits at the table where I was sitting last week when I filed the report.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the staff thought it was this customer who filed the report which is why they zeroed in on him so quickly.  This is another example of what happens when one chooses to solve a problem in an ineffective or inappropriate manner or when someone jumps to inappropriate conclusions – potentially burning unrelated, previously undamaged relationships.

1 comment:

  1. Several states have made, and others are trying to make, it a felony to photograph or otherwise blow the whistle on factory farms that abuse animals, including, unfortunately, my home state. This rather than solve the problems. *sigh*