Problem or opportunity

by Edward Henkler on April 14, 2015

To some degree, you can use the words problem and opportunity interchangeably. Much as it can become grammatically awkward when we’re coached to say “and” rather than “but”, the phrasing can become stilted but…I believe it changes how we approach something. Let’s contrast the following two phrases:

  • “We have a problem with retention.”
  • “We have an opportunity to improve retention.”

When we have a problem with retention, everyone goes into crisis mode which can include many bad behaviors. There’s the duck and cover, blame someone else approach. Perhaps some quick fixes with spot bonuses or days off. A survey is always a good fix. And I’m sure you can insert some of your own cynically received activities. Solutions become tactical and fear may trump collaboration and collegiality.

Something a bit different happens when we have an opportunity to improve retention, even if the starting point is the same. Everyone wants to be involved in an opportunity. The very word tends to make us think more innovatively and creatively. The possibilities are endless when we are trying to take advantage of an opportunity. How about an employee engagement initiative? Maybe a survey to identify and implement the top suggestions for new perks (not more money, just some things to improve quality of work life). How about a project to improve our community?

Problem or opportunity?

Problem or opportunity – do you see clouds or the sun?

I believe the underlying reason is that problems are viewed negatively (in general). Opportunities are viewed positively.

Next time you think you have a problem, try to view it as an opportunity…in your heart, not just as an irritating catch phrase.

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