Happy New Year!

Now that the presents are unwrapped (and hopefully not broken yet), the left overs are gone (along with the company?), and the decorations put away (or not, I don’t judge!), it’s time to start thinking about where 2024 will take us.

For some reason, I’ve been thinking about problems lately. I mean problems like in The Sound of Music; when the nuns are singing in exasperation about solving “a problem like Maria.”

As the Chief Solution Seeker at Schroeder Administrative Solutions, I feel like a lot of the time we see people as problems and it’s a perspective which hinders us from being able to find a solution.

I’m as guilty as the next person! So this year, I’m going to reflect on the times when I’ve aimed the conflict in the wrong direction and use that knowledge to take a different perspective in finding the answers and alleviating the problems!

I hope you enjoy reading about it!

All the best,

Kristine Schroeder
Chief Solution Seeker
Schroeder Administrative Solutions

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

–The Sound of Music, 1965

Do you know the story of The Sound of Music? Maria is a young woman in a convent; destined to become a nun. (I’m not sure what they call the young women before they are “full nuns” – and anyway, that’s a different matter.)

Maria had a lot of ideas about how to do things a little differently. It didn’t sit well with the leadership at the convent – and isn’t that something that’s true to life? None of us likes change and sometimes the person who proposes a change is automatically thought of as a “problem”.

Well, in The Sound of Music, the nuns released Maria into the world. She was placed with a large family with a strict father, to be the live-in nanny. And, here again, she had some radical ideas that challenged the status quo. She thought the children should act more like, well, children. And the father was furious! (Until he wasn’t, but I digress.)

The point is, a lot of times, we think of people as the problem. And here’s a secret – sometimes they think of us as the problem! When you don’t see eye-to-eye, people think of you as difficult or stubborn.

Since I’ve been setting boundaries and standing my ground more and more in the last year and a half; I’ve seen the reactions on people’s faces and heard the shock in their voices. 

Can you relate? 

Here are three questions we should consider:

1.  As business owners and managers, how do we separate the people who are trying to help from the “problem people” who are truly just never happy?

  • Listen and Understand: Actively listen to their concerns without immediately labeling them as “problem people.” Sometimes, their dissatisfaction may stem from unaddressed issues or misunderstandings. By understanding their perspective, you can distinguish between genuine concerns and persistent negativity. 
  • Set Clear Expectations: Establish clear expectations and goals for your team. Clearly communicate the standards and values you expect them to uphold. This not only provides a framework for success but also helps identify individuals who consistently fall short of meeting these expectations. 
  • Encourage Constructive Feedback: Foster an environment where individuals feel comfortable providing constructive feedback. This helps you differentiate between those who offer valuable insights for improvement and those who perpetually express dissatisfaction without contributing to solutions.

2. How can we find solutions or even avoid the conflict with “problem people” in the first place?

  • Promote Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication within the team. Establish regular check-ins or feedback sessions to address concerns proactively, preventing them from escalating into conflicts. Creating a culture of open dialogue can nip potential issues in the bud. 
  • Implement Conflict Resolution Strategies: Develop and communicate clear conflict resolution strategies. Equip your team with the tools to address disagreements in a constructive manner. This proactive approach helps resolve conflicts before they become deep-rooted issues. 
  • Foster a Positive Work Environment: Cultivate a positive and inclusive work environment. A supportive workplace reduces the likelihood of conflicts arising in the first place. When individuals feel valued and supported, they are less likely to adopt a consistently negative attitude. 

3.  How do we recognize and remedy when we’re the “problem” ourselves?

  • Seek Feedback: Actively seek feedback from your team and peers. Be open to constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity for self-reflection. Recognizing and addressing your own shortcomings is a sign of strong leadership. 
  • Continuous Self-Reflection: Regularly engage in self-reflection to assess your actions and decisions. Evaluate whether your approach aligns with the team’s goals and values. Adjust your behavior when necessary, demonstrating a commitment to personal and professional growth. 
  • Empathy and Adaptability: Cultivate empathy towards your team members and be adaptable to changing circumstances. Understanding the perspectives of others allows you to adapt your leadership style when needed. Demonstrating a willingness to change can contribute to a more harmonious work environment. 

Embracing a mindset of grace involves pausing before reacting, considering alternative perspectives, and responding with understanding rather than judgment. It’s about recognizing that everyone has their struggles and challenges, and a little compassion can go a long way in diffusing tension and finding common ground.

In The Sound of Music, Maria turned out to be the solution no one knew they needed! It teaches us that sometimes the person with unconventional ideas can bring positive change and innovation if we give them a chance.

And, if you find yourself seeming to be the problem; take a step back and try to understand how the other person is affected. You can still have boundaries and state your position with caring and respect.

By implementing these tips, you can enhance your ability to differentiate between genuine concerns and persistent negativity, proactively address conflicts, and continuously improve your own leadership approach.