During a conference session I was facilitating recently, I met a man—I’ll call him Paul—who had no problems. Since the session was described as an opportunity to get answers from a small group of your peers to problems you were having in your professional life, I found Paul’s attendance surprising. “If you have no problems, why are you here?” was my first question. “I just came to help.” was Paul’s reply.
The group of peers at his table questioned Paul further. Paul apparently had no problems at work at all. His boss loved his performance. Paul felt happy and fulfilled at his job. Even one of my favorite questions in circumstances like these—So Paul, if you had a problem, what would it be? (It’s surprising how often this works!)—elicited a short silence followed by a further protestation of problemnessless. Just to see how far we could go, I asked Paul if he had a problem with any aspect of his life. “Well,” Paul admitted, “I’m no longer married.” I allowed that this problem was outside the scope of our session, and we moved on to the next participant.
Of course, as my mentor Jerry Weinberg wrote long ago:There’s always a problem. I don’t know for sure, but perhaps Paul’s biggest problem was that he was in denial about his problems.
Whatever the reason, Paul missed a great chance to work on some important aspect of his professional life. It’s rare to be offered such an opportunity, but, as we can see from Paul’s example, it’s still possible to turn it down.
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