On the job, our perception of problems is often worse than the actual problem. It’s easy to waste a lot of productive time worrying. Often the only problem is that you’re missing a key piece of information that can change the game. You can’t Clear the Path of the problem unless you dig a little deeper.
An example of this trap can be found in my wallet. One day, I pulled out my drivers license and noticed that it was bent and perhaps on its way to breaking.
Immediately, I start to worry. I don’t know what I had done to cause this problem. I’m not sure if I’m close to violating some kind of motor vehicle rule. A vein of paranoia opened in my mind where I imagined being pulled over by law enforcement for some minor infraction, only to be jailed for having a broken license.
The anxiety went away when I took part a program that helps low income families have their taxes processed for free. The first thing we do is check client identification and in most cases, that’s a drivers license.
Nearly every one of the hundreds that I saw had the same problem.
It turns out that the cause wasn’t me but rather the magnetic strip that’s located on the lower third of the license. The strip makes that part of the document slightly thicker. If you place the license in a wallet with a bunch of other cards, over time, it will start to bend. It’s a common problem.
I had missed a key piece of information that changed everything. My problem was that I had never investigated my concern. I hadn’t tried to find out more. I had fallen into the trap where it seemed easier to worry than to discover more about the problem.
In this example, the problem was small and comical. But in many organizations, we aren’t doing enough to find out more about our problems. It’s become too convenient to simply worry and hope things will one day get better. As a leader, you need your team to go the extra mile to find out if a problem is real or imagined.