The Fear (and Joy) of Starting with the Problem

problems represented as a large tense knot in rope

Sometimes we have a visceral reaction against starting with a problem. We see this in everything from company strategy sessions and marketing programs to employee feedback and leadership development. “Let’s not be so negative,” we hear.

It’s natural to notice and focus on problems. We are all really good at looking around and determining unwanted situations then describing what we want instead.

The challenge is not that we start with the problem but that we get stuck there–or fear getting stuck there. If we are a problem minded, we will get stuck. If we are solution minded, we happily look at problems head on so that we can solve them.

For example, if we are problem minded when giving people feedback, our mutual defensiveness will get us stuck: they react, we react to their reaction, and we both reinforce our problem-minded evaluation of the situation. If we are solution minded–“Here’s the problem and I know we can resolve it even if we can’t yet see how,”–our faith in resolving the problem respectfully melts away any defensiveness and points us forward.

It turns out that seeing problems and solving them is a source of great joy for us. It’s why we’re here.

In your corner,


Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay