Converting a Gripe into a Goal

Redefining Problems to Make Them Solvable

How gratifying is it to listen to people’s gripes?

Often, complaints are presented to the listener as overwhelming troubles. By the very nature of how they are presented, they sound insurmountable.

“There is no such thing as an unsolvable problem,” says Vistage speaker Mike Murray. “But there are ways of defining a problem that make it unsolvable.”

Often, it’s the way we frame a problem that makes it appear to be impossible to tackle. When we redefine it, we open new mental pathways to solutions.

Murray has come up with a system that walks people through the process of turning a gripe into a goal.

The Five-Minute Gripe-to-Goal Solution

You can start simply. Murray recommends distilling the concern or issue into one sentence.

“Whatever situation comes to mind, write one sentence about it,” he says. The sentence must begin with one of the following phrases:

• “My frustration is that …”
• “My gripe is …”
• “My difficulty is …”

Next, take the same situation and describe it again. This time, your sentence must begin this way:

• “My real concern is …”

“Any time you have a concern, you also have a wish,” explains Murray. “So take that concern and write about it as a wish.” The sentence should begin this way:

• “What I’m really wishing for is …”

Having thought through your wish, you are now prepared to state your wish as a goal.

• “Therefore my goal is to …”

“Your goal may be identical to your wish, or it might be: ‘What would I settle for from my wish?

• Therefore my goal is HOW to …,’

and that becomes a definition of your problem.”

“You haven’t adequately addressed the problem until you’ve defined the problem as a goal to be reached, Murray says.

Remember: Any solution that does not take you to your goal is not — by definition — a solution.

Putting the Gripe-to-Goal Plan into Action

Murray says this reframing exercise helps to refocus problems for yourself — and for your employees.

“Have your employees fill out the “Turning My Gripe into a Goal” worksheet taking them through this exercise before they come into your office. That way, you will start your conversations with identified goals you can work with,” Murray recommends.

Or, keep copies of the form at your desk to help you walk the employee through the exercise while in your office.

“If your employees don’t get any constructive response to the frustrations of trying to meet those goals, they may turn to harmful goals,” warns Murray.

“When there is a gap between what you hoped, needed, wanted, assumed, expected and desired and what is, a lot of frustration — and even anger — can surface. When those feelings in an employee are not listened to and addressed, the employee may engage in harmful and destructive behaviors.”

So do you ever get gripes in your business?

Michael Shapiro – Dynamic Management Solutions, Inc.


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