​“What will it look like when it’s fixed?”  Anyone who came to The Pacific Institute’s co-founder, Lou Tice, with a problem got this for Lou’s first response. Wanting to dig down deep into the guts of the situation and wallow in either the pain or the misery, each petitioner for Lou’s time mostly felt frustrated by this response. He wasn’t being contrary. Typically, Lou felt that the person in front of him was dodging accountability and just needed to be guided back to self-discovery of a solution.

It’s easy to get bogged down when all we do is stare at the problem in front of us. Studying each little part of the problem, while we attempt to find causes and assign blame, only makes the challenge of finding a solution that much more difficult. Situational post-mortems do not change current reality. Running the “blame game” only makes the blamer feel marginally better and the blam-ee feel defensive. In the end, nothing gets solved, and the conversation “around the water cooler” erodes the organization’s culture.

So, what do we do next? Goal-setting is a viable tool to use and it’s something that nearly everyone is familiar with. Goals and goal-setting continue to get lots of attention in business magazines and ezines. Nearly every sports star has goals, and we can count on questions about our personal goals in every performance review or job interview we have. Goals give us targets to shoot for and benchmarks to hit. However, there is one vital piece that comes before the goal and this is what Lou meant by his question. It’s the vision, the picture, of what life, work, the problem will look like,  when it’s fixed.

A clear, concise, vividly drawn picture with plenty of positive emotion attached to it is what we need. Knowing what the situation will look like when it’s fixed gives us something to hang our goals on! Being stronger than current reality, or anything else we subconsciously may be holding onto, the picture of the vision gives us the energy, the creativity, and the drive to make it a reality. Everybody on the team, on the board, in the department, knows where we are going. The chances of getting to this vision are exponentially increased when everyone “gets” the vision.

Are there going to be challenges along the way? Of course, there will be challenges. Industry regulations, personal limitations, any number of things can become obstacles – if that’s how we see them.  ”Change the way you think, and you change the way you run your life” – another principle of Lou’s. And he was right. Turn obstacles into opportunities. How many other ways can we do something? Dozens, if we give ourselves permission to look for them. Industry regulations are a framework, not the completed structure. How much ethical creativity can we bring to making the vision our new current reality? When we focus on what can be done, and not on what can’t, solutions pop up like dandelions on a warm spring day!

In the final analysis, we are accountable for finding solutions to the situations in which we find ourselves. Most finger-pointing needs to be turned 180° back in the direction toward the best solution-finders on the planet – ourselves.