I experienced something frustrating at work recently.

I had asked someone to finish some work for me by Friday. Friday came and went, and no work was forthcoming.
The next week, he promised it to me by the next Friday. I tried to call him that Friday to make sure that was still going to happen, but he’d gone on holiday!
I was now being chased heavily by my boss, so the week after I made it clear the work really needed doing…and he said he couldn’t do it because he was now busy with other things.

This guy was fast becoming an expert in making problems for me.

And I realised that a few years ago, I’d been exactly the same.

I learned a tough lesson when I first started being given responsibility:

People don’t want to work with you if you create more problems than solutions.

So in my story earlier on, the problem wasn’t just that the work was overrunning, it was the broken promises and then simply saying: ‘It can’t be done.’


  • He could have said at the outset that he didn’t have the time.
  • He could have suggested someone else to do the work in his place.
  • He could have explained that other work would stop him from finishing, and introduced me to his other bosses.

Each of us will encounter situations where others’ expectations of us are unrealistic.

The key to turning those false expectations into realistic opportunities is to:

  1. Explain why there’s a problem, and what it is.
  2. Suggest a solution that they’re free to challenge.
  3. Make a promise that you know you can keep (and probably beat).

Doing this does three clear things:

  1. It proves that you understand that person’s needs, and how important it is to meet them well.
  2. It gives you control where before you had none.
  3. It allows you to now exceed expectations by over-delivering against your own promise. Where before you were guaranteed to lose, you’re now guaranteed to win!

So how about we resolve today to turn from Problems People into Solutions People?

And allow me to give you an instant opportunity to practice!

It’s easy to spot problems in something like our Sunday morning meetings – and we have a constant desire to improve them.

Why not suggest a solution to a problem you can see, take ownership for it, and get some experience leading?

See you on Sunday!