The Problem with your Problem-Solver

I’m writing this while in the midst of an emotional whirlwind. The cause: an impending, temporary move overseas.

Anyone who’s moved knows that things can get a bit…overwhelming.

moving day

Needless to say, I’ve needed lots of people to figure lots of things out. Actually, I’ve needed more than people. I’ve needed experts.

Here’s just a sample:

  • I needed an expert CPA to do my business taxes and help me plan financially
  • I needed an expert mechanic to fix a leak before my beloved Jeep sat in someone’s driveway for months
  • I needed an expert hair stylist to help me figure out exactly how to keep my extremely dark roots from getting too offensive to the foreigners

We all know how unfortunate those unattractive hair moments can be.


I had great expectations for each of these experts, knowing they’d take care of their various tasks so that I could move on to other whirlwind-induced projects.

And then…

  • My business taxes were returned with a confusing report noting an error in the bottom line
  • I picked up my car after getting the good news that the leak was all fixed. And the next day the puddle returned
  • The solution to my roots – a painful return to the days of the plastic cap and some kind of torturous assistance from Hubbie – was not at all ideal. For either of us.

I was beyond frustrated.

Why couldn’t these experts solve my problems? Why did I have to get involved when I had so much else to figure out? After all, wasn’t I paying them for this?

And then I realized the flaw in my thinking. Yes, these people were experts in their subject areas. But they weren’t experts on me.

And, it turns out, I’m the only me expert there is.  And that makes fixing things…a bit more complicated.

We’ve all been there in our professional and personal lives, facing various problems we alone couldn’t quite figure out. So we hired or engaged with various experts, breathing a sigh of relief that these problem-solvers would take care of everything so we could move on to…everything else.


We soon learned the hard way that our problem-solving expert couldn’t simply fix it all for us. Their solutions didn’t work…or weren’t ideal. So we had to get involved. We felt frustrated, cheated.

Understandable, of course. Yet the reality is that, as much as they could expertly understand the one snapshot of the need we presented, they needed a partner to provide a bit more information.

They needed a me expert, someone to take some time…to tell more of the story, create context and history to the problem, advocate and brainstorm other solutions when the ones presented wouldn’t work.

In my case (and, unfortunately, in retrospect):

  • I needed to review the tax documents before they were submitted, no matter how much they bored or intimidated me (the error was obvious once I looked). I know my finances best.
  • I needed to talk with the mechanic about the long history of Jeep leaks in my life instead of simply dropping it off. I know my vehicle best.
  • I needed to let my hair stylist know we needed to brainstorm other root solutions because there’s no way Hubbie would want to take on that kind of responsibility. I know my hair (and relationship) best.

I realized that’s what the me expert needs to do.

Even more importantly and before anything else, the me expert needs to find the right partners in the first place: those who agree on this concept…people who actually get that they need more information…people who will ask the right questions, hear us, and put the answers to use.

In the end, it’s this right partnership that will make the right things happen for us so that we can really get those problems solved and move on to better things.

And, perhaps most critically, we can avoid those unfortunate, unattractive hair moments forever.


Well, at least for a while.

This week…

Recognize that subject experts are great to help you solve your problems, but their knowledge only goes so far. Know that it’s up to you to be the me expert.

Own it, live it, and get your problems solved once and for all.

Now, go do good…and do it well.


8 responses to “The Problem with your Problem-Solver”

  1. Mark Burgess Avatar

    Most people reserve a permanent reservoir of hope that SOMEONE can solve every knotty problem. We – all humans, at least – fear the unknown the most.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Completely agree – and feel that fear far in those moments when I realize that SOMEONE has to be me. Thanks Mark!

  2. Laura Alpert Avatar
    Laura Alpert

    This is great! Totally agreed…the more information we share with the experts in our lives, the better they’ll be able to help us. And the better we can help others in the future when we’ve countered the same problem before. Best of luck with your move!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Thanks for this, Laura – it’s indeed all about sharing…and taking the time to do it right. That last part is the part that messes me up more than anything 🙂

  3. Patty Avatar

    Thank you Deirdre for a great reminder. Sometimes I just want the problem to “go away” and can’t/won’t take the time to review it. It usually takes more time and money in the long run. Have a great trip.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      It sure does…and could also include a whole lot of pain! Thanks for giving this a read!

  4. Lauren Avatar

    Hi Deirdre –
    The other lesson I gleaned from your post is that a little extra effort up front to clarify expectations and explain the background of a situation saves a lot of time in the end. I find this is particularly true when delegating work!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Absolutely – delegating work means actually taking the time to let the person in on the project…and to avoid thinking they’ve got it covered start to finish and we can just let our guard down. Not exactly a partnership! Thanks Lauren!