Sheriff: Learn to turn problems into opportunities
I hope that everyone is enjoying this amazing summer we have been given so far. Between our parks, trails and miles of beautiful shoreline, there is no shortage of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the weather.
Although we live in an amazing part of the world, we as a community struggle with what many would call “problems,” but I like to call them "opportunities."
Throughout any given week, we here at the Sheriff’s Department meet to address and hopefully solve various problems. Many times these issues are interrelated between various departments or even agencies outside of county operations. The process of how we approach these challenges is actually a resiliency skill and the topic of this week’s article.
Problem solving is a skill we can apply to everything from interpersonal struggles to societal issues. One of the most frustrating realities many of us face is a problem that we dealt with in the past continuing to re-occur even though we thought the matter was addressed.
This can happen for many reasons, but one is that the original problem was never really correctly identified but rather was a symptom of the problem.
This brings us to the first and most important step in the problem solving process, which is identifying what we think is the problem. Notice that I am careful to use the phrase “what we think” because many times after thoughtful consideration and discussion, the originally stated problem ends up being a resulting issue rather than the actual problem.
Once we arrive at what the problem actually is, we next identify why the problem happened. At first there may be numerous answers to this question based on everything from personal experiences to personal biases.
This is why problem solving in a group setting is most effective, as various perspectives contribute to the discussion and therefore various inputs on why the problem happened are brought forward.
The next step is to identify the contributing factors that caused the problem. This step is vital to not only solving the immediate problem but also to reducing the chance that this same problem will occur in the future.
Just as with identifying the problem, the process of identifying contributing factors will be most effective by having more than one person provide input. This step can also be problematic, as contributing factors may in fact be our own actions or long-held traditions that we are reluctant to deviate from, which may contribute to the problem at hand.
Once we establish a list of contributing factors, we then evaluate which of these factors we can control and which we cannot. This is an especially important step when we use this process in our personal lives, as too often we tend to focus on things outside of our control while diminishing the effort we apply to those things we can change in our lives.
The final and most exciting step is developing solution strategies that will bring about positive change. This can be a very rewarding part of the process as it provides an opportunity to open communication to others outside of our immediate environment and establish relationships with those who can assist in effecting change to those factors outside of our own control.
Since being introduced to this resiliency skill, I have found it interesting to apply the steps to the many issues that I confront on a daily basis. Many times I now see what I thought were solutions to problems as merely short-term fixes to the symptoms of the actual problem.
I would encourage anyone to take the time and use these simple steps in addressing the various problems that arise on any given day. While we cannot eliminate problems from our lives, we can minimize the possibility of exhausting ourselves by dealing with the same problem over and over again, thus providing more time to embrace new “opportunities."
Matt Joski is Kewaunee County Sheriff.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Sheriff: Learn to turn problems into opportunities