Who Owns the Problem? You Do

Every problem deserves someone to get it fixed. If the owner of the problem is unclear, it’s your job to fix it or find someone to fix it. That might be unfair but it’s the only sure way things improve.

Today browsing the social feed I saw a rather disappointing statement:

We hear this kind of statement a lot:

  • “If only someone would do something”,
  • “why doesn’t someone fix this?”
  • “management should have addressed it”
  • “politicians should be solving this
  • “I’ve known for years someone should do something”

We can sit and bemoan the state of leadership globally (I do often), but it rarely contributes to the solution of problems. What does drive solutions is people taking up their agency to act and encouraging others to do the same.

If there is a problem with no person obviously working to solve it, then the burden falls on the person who can see the problem to work on it. Rarely you might be the only person who can see that problem or deliver that solution because of your unique skills, situation or perspective. Often, everyone else might be waiting for someone to show leadership, declare the need for work and start. I’ve seen many situations where it only took someone to say I think we should fix this for solutions to be found. Even more often, the person whose job it is to fix that issue might have other issues and just not be accountable enough. They aren’t going to change with wishes. They need the pressure of action and conversations to see the need to contribute their help.

Many of you might feel it is unfair to ask you to act because you are adversely impacted by the problem. It is. Ending that unfairness requires action. There are plenty of problems of structural or societal or power inequality, that can’t be solved by the actions of one person. They probably won’t be solved quickly. They also won’t be solved if we wait. Everyone can play a role, even if that role is just going looking for someone else to help or describing the problem in a way that enables others to take action.

If you find a problem that’s not being solved fast enough for your liking, either help or bring in the people who can help. It is that simple. If we all take up this accountability to fix or find the fixer then things improve rapidly. Importantly, in this process we also discover a whole bunch of agency and a whole lot of learned helplessness disappears.

Passionate and inspiring leaders aren’t wishing for a better and waiting for problems to be solved. They are creating solutions through action and accountability. That energy and activity is what engages others and changes the world.

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