“That’s your lot folks... ” A bridge too far?

Monday 27th January 2014 - Posted in People
By Louise Lapish, MD, Gatewood Consulting Ltd

How can a recent experience in a Yorkshire coastal town change your business perspective for 2014? Whitby, North Yorkshire, imagine the scene, early January and although the UK is in the grip of storm warnings there it was calm with hardly a breeze. No trip to Whitby is complete without climbing the 199 steps to the Abbey and admiring the spectacular views of the coastline. When I returned to the Whitby Harbour bridge it was closed allowing the trawlers to return in what was obviously an exceptionally high tide. Standing alongside numerous of other tourists who waved at the various crew and whooped as they passed and then…

It became apparent that there was an issue on the other side of the bridge; the short 75ft gap became a cavern as the bridge had lost its swing. How long was this going to last? At this point the less than friendly Gate operator stated: “That’s your lot folks….” He then proceeded to walk away.

What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?

There were various grumblings from the crowd;
“Not again” the local late for work implored followed by a frantic call to their boss….
“We’re stuck!”
“The last time it was broken for hours”
“They have to fix it”
Everyone waited for a second wondering what their options were, some stood stead fast, surely the bridge would be under repair? It struck me how often this happens in business, an obstacle is put in front of us and how we deal with it depends on how we move forward.

Effective problem solving for your business starts with you

So how did the different types of people deal with it? The pessimist, the voice of doom and gloom, I am sure we have all come across them. “It’s always happening, the last time it took hours to fix, it never works, I blame the council….” There is always someone else to blame in their world, the only way to effectively problem solve is to grumble and become a victim o the situation.

Step One – Acknowledge there is a problem and most importantly take responsibility for finding the solution

There were a number of people who had resigned themselves to waiting either by the bridge or in the local hostelry. A solution had to be presented to them surely? Perhaps a more optimistic approach, however as the rain started to fall and the temperature dropped it seemed apparent that depending on someone else to provide the solution. In some cases we can identify what the cause of the problem, when we are unable to we have to work around it.

Step Two – Believe there is a solution and take control

I asked the question “Is there another way around?” At this stage I did not have all of the facts to hand; I knew that there must be another solution, another bridge, an alternative route. My friend and I discussed what we should do; we asked the “late for work” local what our options were and we opened the problem up. A couple of others joined the conversation- there were lots of options, a taxi, a bus, jumping the small gap (a slightly riskier approach admittedly) and a 1.5 mile diversion on foot.

Step Three – Open the problem, utilise a team approach to problem solving

The decision we made was to walk with the local and follow the diversion, there was another way around, and one might even suggest it was a bit of an adventure. Evaluating your situation and taking the most proactive approach can ensure that you remain in control. Working on that solution as a team (or if you are independent, with a coach, colleague or mentor) can reinforce the belief that the solution will work. Once you have decided on the solution there is only one thing left to do.

Step Four – Do it!

Louise Lapish is one of Yorkshire’s well known Career & Business Coaches along with delivering a wide range of business skills courses and team development. She ensures you take control of your challenges and works with you to develop a toolkit to solve it


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