Twenty+ years ago, I walked into Phyllis Endicott’s office asking for help in dealing with a teacher whose process was not working for me.

Phyllis was responsible for the Challenge Program, a specialized program for students who didn’t quite meet the academic requirements to gain full admittance to the University of Northern Colorado.

Essentially, I had one semester to prove my capabilities.

Honestly, I didn’t think I would ever graduate high school, much less go to college. So, you can imagine what was at stake for me—I needed to prove myself and this one teacher was making that very hard.

So, I asked Phyllis for help… “Can you please have a conversation with Ms. Jacobson about the way she conducts tests?”

Her response changed my life, and the way I conducted myself with every person, regardless of title. Here’s what she said—

“Misti, you’re the one with the problem, not me. You go talk to her.”

In a split second, I felt both empowered and terrified.

At the time, my experience with difficult conversations always included raising voices, cruel words, and often tears. While I wasn’t sure how to approach Ms. Jacobson, a tiny part of me (fueled by Phyllis’s trust in me) believed I could do it.

In the end, I was able to share what wasn’t working for me, and to ask for Ms. Jacobson’s help. Her willingness to adapt for me is what allowed me to pass her class; therefore gaining fully admittance. 

While I was grateful immediately thankful I passed her class, I am eternally thankful to Phyllis for insisting that I solve my own problems.

As Michael Bugay Stainer so elegantly talks about in The Coaching Habit, the “answer monster” plagues all of us, as it lures us in with its intoxicating highs each time we give someone (a team member, spouse, friend, or even our neighbors’) an answer to their problem.

When we seek to solve other people’s problems, what we’re saying is…

          “I don’t trust you to find your own solutions.”

The greatest gifts we can offer to others is our belief in them, to solve their own problems.  To empower those around us, we often need to let go of the good feeling we get when we solve their problem; and instead, relish the good feelings of watching them find their own solutions. 

The next time someone comes to you with a problem, consider asking more questions, reflect back what you’re hearing, and refrain from giving them the answers… you never know what they’re capable of coming up with on their own.

You’ll be giving them the biggest gift of all—

Belief in their capabilities to handle their own dilemmas, experiment, learn, adjust, and trust they will be okay regardless.

If you found this post helpful, please share it.  If you are looking for a keynote speaker, an executive coach, or a facilitator for an upcoming event or meeting (in person or virtual), email me directly at Misti at Here’s to your greatness, Misti Burmeister Http://

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister