When you think about it, most of us in the IT field are paid to solve problems. Sure there are some routine tasks that we do that don’t really require us to think a lot. But for the most part, I’m convinced that we solve problems for a living.
Do you disagree? If you don’t believe me, think about how you spend your day.
- “We need to roll out the latest service pack to all client desktops.” You figure out a way to make that happen.
- “The network is slow!” You break out your network diagnostic tools, figure out why, and fix it.
- “We need to represent and capture this business information in a database.” You interview the stakeholders and create the entity relationship diagrams.
See what I mean? We solve problems for a living. And that’s good. As long as there are users, there will be problems to solve.
Offering a solution
Often when we provide solutions to problems, we just do it. These are typically straightforward solutions that don’t require a lot of input from others. There is no approval process required. The elegance of the proposed solution is not reviewed, much less questioned. We are trusted to do our jobs and implement the solution. If we fall short, we’ll receive some feedback.
But not all solutions are like this. Many require us to put our thoughts together and creatively come up with a solution either as an individual or as part of a team and then present our solution to others.
Shotdown in flames
When you present your ideas to others for review or approval, there are really only three possible responses.
Your proposal is met with unbridled enthusiasm. They really like it and are eager for you to proceed. You walk away from the meeting smiling. This point really doesn’t need much more discussion. All is good.
Your proposal is met with what can only be described as a certain lukewarmness. The review committee or decision makers are somewhat skeptical but they give you tacit approval to proceed. And although they are less than convinced about its outcome, you can still knock their socks off by proving that it works by exceeding their expectations. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is and show results.
What were your thinking? Moron!
Sometimes, though, they actively, openly, and perhaps passionately dislike or even disdain your proposal. And they demonstrate little, if any, self-censorship in telling you why. Sometimes they even use colorful language to describe the ways they think the idea is bad. Your balloon is deflated. Your parade, rained out. Did you hear that clap of thunder off in the distance?
Paint a new picture
It is in those times that I like to think of my ideas as works of art.
Art can be a beautiful thing. But as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I may think that my proposal is wonderful. It’s great. It meets all their requirements and is all but guaranteed to have overwhelming success. It’s beautiful!
But they may see it another way. Their perception may be different. They may not like it at all. They may start shooting holes in it immediately. And this can hurt if my pride is wrapped up in the proposal, if my sense of self-worth is interwoven into the solution.
Think of it this way. If I’m holding this solution, this piece of art, right in front of me, close to my heart, I’m going to get hit when they start shooting holes in it. There’s no way around it. I’ll take the hits and it’s going to hurt.
But if I’ve decided to hold the piece of art off to one side when I’m presenting it, I’m safe. If they start shooting holes in it, I’m not going to get hit. It passes right through the art and continues on. I’m standing safely beside it.
That’s what we need to do with our ideas. Think of them as works of art. You may appreciate them, but your client or boss may not. No worries. Just set down the solution and create a new work of art based on the feedback you get.
Remember that you are not your ideas. You have self worth and intrinsic value regardless of what other people may think of your ideas or even of you. You cannot control what they think or how they act. But you can control how you respond to them.
Separate yourself from your ideas. And most importantly separate yourself from what others think.
So what do you think? How do you cope with negative feedback to your proposed solutions?