Not My Problem: The Key To Solving the Gov. Shutdown and Other Problems That Aren’t Our Responsibility

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People support that which they help to create, so if you make them part of the solution, they’ll be even more dedicated to seeing it through.”— Misti Burmeister

Do people really push harder to accomplish goals they help to create? Are they more dedicated to solving problems when they help to define the solutions? I think so.

In fact, I saw this lesson unfold right in front of my eyes last week at an annual event The Washington Business Journal hosts, honoring 25 of the region’s most influential women (a.k.a., Women Who Mean Business).

As a past honoree, I have the privilege of being invited each year. These gatherings always begin with wine and appetizers while attendees mix and mingle. At some point, Alex Orfinger, publisher of the Journal, attempts to wrangle these women and then introduces a representative from Capital One, our sponsor.

Capital One welcomes us, introduces the new honorees, and provides a few conversation starters (as if a room full of powerful business women need that!). Nonetheless, the topics are always interesting, and I enjoy hearing the diverse perspectives these questions provoke.

This year’s question: “What can our group do to help deal with the challenges our local businesses are facing as a result of the government shutdown?”

At first, the answers were pretty much what you’d expect: Call your Congressman incessantly and pray. Then, one lady stood up and agreed to give $500 to the Emergency Assistance Fund, a nonprofit that helps those in need during times like these.

As soon as she sat down, a woman from a local energy company stood up and talked about how much her company is doing from a volunteer perspective. Then, she added, “And I’ll personally give $1,000.”

I was shocked! While I have no clue about her personal finances, $1,000 is no small lump of cash to be handing out on a whim. The government shutdown certainly isn’t our responsibility, nor is helping companies struggling during this time. Yet, after the initial offer, hands started flying up.

Clearly unprepared, one of the ladies from Capital One grabbed a pen and napkin to write down the names and amounts promised. She couldn’t quite keep up, so support staff from the Journal jumped in to help.  Together, we raised more than $16,000 in less than 10 minutes.

As I reflect on this story, I wonder what would have happened if the hosts had suggested we donate. I doubt we would have raised nearly as much as we did when the group decided to give.

Perhaps more business leaders should take this approach with their employees. Instead of giving orders, cutting jobs, and hiding challenges, what would happen if they simply asked their teams to suggest solutions?

My guess is that most employees would reach deep in their pockets, hearts, and minds to uncover strategies that keep the mission alive and benefit the customers they love so much. People support that which they help to create, so if you make them part of the solution, they’ll be even more dedicated to seeing it through.

Join the Conversation: What challenges are you facing right now? Present them to your team, ask for solutions, and share the outcomes here.

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across GenerationsHidden Heroes and Power Suck.

Misti on Google+

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