found a problem? fix it.

July 30, 2008 at 12:07 pm | Posted in Professional Development | 2 Comments
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Was listening to an interview with Michael Dell the other day (can’t find the link now) where he was asked about the best advice he had ever received since starting his business in high school.  He said that it was from a college professor who told him, “When you find a problem, fix it right away.”

Sounds pretty simple.  Almost too simple.  But I know from personal experience how difficult it can be.  Recently I’ve had a couple of situations in my personal and professional life that caused me to wonder how things might have been differently had I acted to fix the problems I found immediately.  Of course, there’s no way to know for sure, but all things considered, I think I will win more than I lose by following the advice.

It’s not always easy though, because sometimes fixing problems have ramifications.  Sometimes serious ones.  Fixing a broken door handle and fixing a situation where, say, you know that a friend is being dishonest at work, come with very different sets of baggage.  That’s what makes the choices hard.

In coaching, I fell prey to delayed action many times.  Maybe I liked a kid and didn’t want to yank him from a starting role.  Maybe I didn’t want to hear the gripes of a parent.  Maybe I didn’t want to fight the red tape of the school administration.  There were plenty of things that delayed what I knew deep down to be right.  I’ve recently had to remind myself that they rarely, if ever, end well — in coaching, business, or life.  Take ’em on as early as possible.



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  1. While I completely agree with the idea of acting quickly to deal with an issue because letting things ‘fester’ makes the problem worse…I also think that, on occasion, we run the risk of acting rash. You’re examples of things that need fixing show a distinction between making ‘easy’ and ‘difficult’ decisions. From my own experience, I know that the difficult decisions are those where having confidants can be extremely valuable. It’s always your decision to make, but having trusted confidants in the form of mentors, friends, spouse, partner, pastor or assistant coaches (etc.) is critical. Sharing your thoughts with these individuals can help greatly in the decision making process when dealing with the ‘difficult’ choices.
    Thanks or the post Billy.

  2. Good distinction, Andy. The post could be more properly titled, “Find a problem that needs fixing? Dont’ delay just because it’s difficult.”

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