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The Art of Troubleshooting

What’s the real problem with trouble? People don’t know how to diffuse it. You will never find the perfect job, boss, or coworker. Yet people are somehow surprised when things go wrong. What do you do when everything at work falls apart?

We play the victim. Why?

Because the victim is never wrong!

Think about it. If you're the victim, it’s the other guy's fault 100% of the time. You go home at night and sleep easy knowing that Jim really missed the pooch on that presentation. But that isn’t what true leaders do.

True leaders take ownership. True leaders diffuse heated situations.

Troubleshooting is knowing how to shoot down trouble before trouble magnifies and takes down not only you but the people around you. Here is how you can defuse trouble at work:

1. Listen before you act

Trouble is sneaky. Often it wants you to jump to conclusions. Understanding comes through listening.

Listen before you make your judgment. Read what your coworkers or boss say and what they don’t say. Observe body language, facial expressions, and social cues.

If you approach a problem with a solution in mind you never really identified the problem. If you fail to understand the problem, your answer cannot hope to solve it.

2. Think slow, think fast

At times you need to act quickly to solve a problem.

Have you ever heard the saying, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover?” I’m here to tell you that is a lie in certain situations. Sure there are times that it’s good to take your time before making a decision.

But there are others times when you can make as good a decision in 20 seconds as you can in 20 years. Know when to trust your gut. Your raw instincts are very powerful. There are times when you just know something, almost instantly. Like when to jump out of the road when a reckless driver steers right for you.

But there are other times when your gut instincts can lead you astray. Warren Harding was a man who looked like a natural born leader. But beneath the surface, he was one of the worst U.S. presidents of all time.

Know when to trust your instincts and when to challenge them.

3. Don’t accept reason from fear

Trouble and fear are best buds. They never go to a party alone. Where there is fear, you can bet trouble will follow.

Learn to recognize fear and combat it. To really shoot down trouble, don’t give fear the time of the day. There are a million ways that fear can cause you to lose control. When you take advice from fear, it’s a lot like a dog chasing her tail.

You want so badly to eliminate all fear that you run in circles chasing every little problem. Before you know it, you’re totally out of breath. And your tail is still there. The truth about fear is you really can’t eliminate it.

But you can acknowledge it, and then move on.

If you don’t allow fear to dictate your choices, you are then free to make a choice for an entirely different reason. Remember, fear is selfish. Fear wants you to ignore the needs of others and focus only on yourself.

Reason, on the other hand, allows you to think and make decisions based on logic.

4. Learn how to give

Giving can eliminate trouble. True gifts (things given with no thought of rewards) create true friendships.

Think about it this way. When you give the gift of your time, knowledge, or innovation have you ever felt bad about doing that? Can a person give too much? We live in a modern world where giving is not popular.

But to solve problems we need to rely on each other for knowledge outside our own expertise. When we give with no thought of reward, we gain friends who then support us in times of trial.

True leaders are not hoarders. True leaders freely give their knowledge, time, talents, and energy to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

5. Be more kind

In the summer of 2002, Dr. Ambady conducted a test to see if strangers could tell which doctors were more likely to be sued. Participants did not get to see the doctors in action. Instead, they listened to 40-second audio slices of the doctor's tone of voice with their patients.

From just this small audio clip, complete strangers were able to predict which doctors were more likely to be sued. The telling factor turned out to be the surgeon's tone of dominance and anxiety. Those surgeons who displayed higher dominance and lower anxiety were thought to be less empathetic towards their patients.

In other words, the number of mistakes a doctor made and the level of professionalism did not matter as much as how the doctor communicated with patients.

Kindness in the workplace makes up for so many human errors. We all make mistakes, but being able to recognize those mistakes and show compassion is the mark of true leaders.

True leaders know it’s not just what you say, but how you say it that matters most.

1. Carroll, A. E. (2015, June 01). To Be Sued Less, Doctors Should Consider Talking to Patients More. Retrieved from
2. Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. PenguinBooks.
3. Godin, S. (2018). Linchpin: Are you indispensable? Piatkus.
4. Leander, K. (2014, June 18). Thin Slices, Intuition and Getting Sued for Medical Malpractice. Retrieved from


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