Michael Burton has extensive experience in management, sales and marketing. Burton owns and operates Burton Business Services, which provides consulting services, marketing assistance, and project management to businesses and nonprofit organizations. He is also a partner in OandP Staffing, LLC, providing expert assistance with O&P careers. Burton is a member of the Industry Advisory Council for O&P Business News and is President of the Orthotic and Prosthetic Activities Foundation. He also serves on the board of directors for The Center for O&P Learning & Evidence-Based Practice. Burton is a frequent speaker at colleges with O&P programs, as well as continuing education conferences. He focuses his blog on the business of O&P with a wide range of topics from marketing, human resources, health care reform and the latest business changes to impact O&P.
For those of you who received your orthotic education at Northwestern University while Jim Russ was the program director, you know this quote quite well. This was not only a tagline for Jim, it was a way of life. The life of Jim Russ was celebrated earlier this year at his funeral, but most of the conversations were focused on what he had taught us. Although I was never a student at Northwestern, I was a student of Jim’s for many years.
Jim Russ taught us all that we had an obligation to lift orthotics and prosthetics to a new level. The foundation for this thinking was that if we wanted to be treated as professionals that we had to stop conducting ourselves as if we were a trade or craft. Jim had a greater influence on professionalism for orthotics and prosthetics than any other person for a generation. He did not do this for show. The beliefs were sincere and never changed. He insisted that AK and BK be referred to as transfemoral and transtibial even in private conversations. There was never a time when slang terms were allowed in conversations with Jim.
Jim also taught us how to think outside the box. In his case, I doubt that he even knew that a box even existed. He taught us to think without parameters and to seek the best solutions without becoming sidetracked by the expectations of others. There is an old saying, “I wondered why somebody didn’t do something, and then I realized I am somebody.” Jim was always that somebody, and wanted us to be somebody as well.
One of my greatest frustrations in the business world is that practically every company has employees who have lots of time to tell anybody who will listen what the company’s problems are. This takes a great deal of time and effort. I tend to focus on solutions and become frustrated with those who know all of the questions but can never provide answers.
I have also sat through countless meetings where people gathered to discuss a problem, even though the problem may not have been significant. This often involved somebody complaining that they were taking on too much work and did not have the time available in their schedule to complete the problem task. I have sat in these meetings with my ever present pad and pen and calculated how many man hours were being spent to discuss “the problem.” The time taken by any one meeting to discuss the problem often involved more man hours than the problem task would require over the course of a full year. What a waste of time and resources. Yet, these meetings seem to take place on a regular basis at many companies.
I once had an employer who brought all of their managers together at least once a week for a meeting where everyone talked about the challenges faced by their department. Again, I wondered why the meetings were focused on telling others about a problem, rather than discussing potential solutions. It was easier to talk about problems than it was to seek the necessary solutions.
Another company had week-long management meetings, yet the plans devised at those meetings that were supposed to guide our efforts for the year were usually abandoned within the first month following the meeting. However, the meetings seemed necessary because that was what other companies were doing. In each case, these companies were thinking well inside the box.
Rather than focusing on problems, we all need to be able to say “no problem.” Many of us remember a United Airlines commercial where a business traveler is talking with others and constantly saying, “I can do that,” and ending the commercial by adding, “How am I going to do that?” All of us need to start thinking this way. This frequent traveler was focused on needs and was seeking solutions, rather than focusing on the problem.
Where do we go from here? Please share your thoughts on this by posting your response.
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