Catalyst

Learning from Life and Leadership

Keeping Small Problems from Becoming Large Problems

Problems

Everyone has problems. Too many turn a minor difficulty into a titanic tumult.

But it doesn’t have to happen You have to respond to problems rather than react to them.

The church where I serve publishes a “pocket directory.” It is what the name implies, a 2 inch by 4 inch top bound phone book. It’s ideal for keeping in desks, purses, and cars. The directory has always been popular.

Recently, we updated the directory. Members had several requests. They wanted email addresses for everyone. Cell phone numbers became a necessity. Older members requested larger print. Doing all this in a manageable size is a tall order.

My excellent staff went to work on the project. We worked around roadblocks, edited, corrected, and sent to the printer. We talked to the printer who said, “no problem” to all of our needs.

But there was a problem.

On our submitted copy, the print was larger. But the printer simply reduced the text to a size smaller than the previous directory. I could hear the complaints before they came. I had to do something. I learned to not feed the problem to make it larger.

Don’t blame others. It would have been easy to blame the printer. Who is responsible is not the point. We had 700 directories with tiny type.

Admit the problem–upfront. In our church bulletin, I wrote an article describing what we were able to do (put in email addresses and cell phone numbers). But the article also faced the problem squarely. We knew the text was too small. We were not pleased. It did not turn out as we hoped. I did not try to explain it away–just state the obvious and agree with it.

Have a plan to fix it. The article also stated that we would correct the problem in the next edition. We would move that schedule up 5 months to address the problem at that time. This gives you a chance to find out how to fix it.

Thank people for their understanding. Irritation grows with a bad attitude. I wanted to set their attitude for them. I wanted them to look in their mirrors and see understanding, patient people who would accept the situation. The congregation (for the most part) responded positively.

No one can eliminate slips that occur. But anyone, with a little thinking can keep a slip-up from turning into a clenched-teeth contest of egos. Stop, breathe, and then respond calmly. Most problems will melt like ice in triple-digit heat.

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