Start Worrying When the Noise Stops
Our first computer was an expensive marvel that came with a 40 meg hard drive and windows 3.0. Yes, “meg” as in megabyte.
The salesman said we would never fill a hard drive with that much capacity.
It came with a 14.4 modem. You have no appreciation for download speed if you don’t know what 14.4 means. Suffice it to say that you started downloading a file and went to lunch.
I’ll never forget the day we upgraded to a blazing 28.8 modem. Then the worst happened.
Our marvel started grinding. My imagination went wild. It made a grinding noise when you started it and eventually went quiet. Meanwhile another problem emerged.
Out of the blue it turned itself off. You lost whatever you were working on. I spent hours on the phone trying to figure out the problem. Eventually the grinding stopped completely but the turning-off issue got worse.
I’d call the computer store and say, “It’s me again.” They took me through diagnostic tests to no avail. Until one day the technician on the phone asked me to take the panel off the side of our expensive marvel.
There’s a fan that sits on top of your computer’s processor. The blades on our fan didn’t whirl. They quivered. The grinding had been the fan.
The computer was overheating. When it got too hot it just said, “I quit and turned itself off.” We solved the problem for about $10. It was my first computer repair.
You might grow weary of dealing with noisy problems. But if you don’t solve the grinding, another problem will emerge.
Start worrying when the noise stops.
Smile when people bring problems. But don’t be “the fixer.”
Help them take the panel off and look inside. Ask, “What would you do if you were me?”
How might leaders stay positive when they’re surrounded by problems?
When my students bring me their problems–my printer is out of ink, my car wouldn’t start. the dog ate my homework etc.–the first question I always ask is—
Who owns that problem?
Leaders can stay positive by not taking on other people’s problems. Certainly have compassion, offer some coaching if required, but keep ownership where it belongs.
When I facilitate a group discussion, I start the debriefing stuff only when the noise subsides because before then, they are processing. Why interrupt? I also wander around and listen to the discussions, which are generally on topic if I have set things up with a good question.
Noise. Noise IS good! When it stops, it’s a problem!!
(My first computer had ONE floppy drive — Macintosh. Luxury came when I added a second, external floppy drive. And I still have a Mac Plus with an external 20 Meg drive. Unbelievable!!)
I did my master’s and dissertation using paper punch cards. 1970 and 1976.
Insightful as usual. 🙂
I used to say that about my kids and my elementary PE class…. when the noise stops I need to jump into action. There was almost always a problem when they were “too quiet.” In a organization, class, or even a relationship, quiet can be deafening if it occurs too often and at times when “noise” is the expectation. It may also reflect apathy or withdrawal from engagement because somehow it doesn’t matter. Asking questions may jump start productive noise and/or begin the journey to a solution on a noisy situation/issue. But I have to admit, I have to reign myself in because I am a fixer, and as a teacher, I didn’t allow enough think (wait) time because the lack of noise bothered me… so we must be careful not to jump to conclusions about noise or the lack of noise. Questions peel back layers so we have a better understanding of what we are hearing (or not), as your computer tech found out, so a solution can be found.
When an employee comes to you because there is a lack of noise, ask questions instead of fixing the problem. I learnt in a Dale Carnegie leadership class many years ago, the four problem solving questions you give an employee when the noise stops. “What is the problem?” “What is the cause of the problem?” “What are the possible solutions?” and come back to me with “What is the best possible solution?” What this does is get the employee to examine the problem before bringing it to you. I found these four questions very effective as a leader and made your direct reports think before expecting you to solve their problems for them.
Purpose would certainly be one way to maintain positivity and calm in the midst of the problems. Wonderful. Thank you.
Great post! I’m a big fan of Stephen Covey and the 4 Quadrant grid. I use it to navigate my way through the day’s issues. Is it urgent? Is it vitally important? Does it need to be handled now (or even by me)? I use this little matrix to triage out my issues and then stay focused on the most important and urgent thing in front of me. Everything else starts sorting itself pretty quick after that. Thanks for your insight!