When Working with Others, Ignore Distracting Chatter But Recognize Initiative

By Katie Corbett


It can be easy for people to give ideas about how to fix or accomplish something, especially if they are not in positions of leadership to make it happen. They might not understand everything it takes to run an organization, project, or event.


Nike founder Phil Knight says in “Shoe Dog” that one of the people he brought on to sell shoes for him wrote with lots of ideas, complaints, and things that weren’t working well. Here are some steps to try if you have such a person in your life.


  • Ask them what they think could be done to fix it.
  • Encourage them to take a leading role in fixing the problem.
  • Give them more responsibility.
  • Ask them what they can commit to in terms of finding solutions.
  • Encourage them to implement those solutions.
  • Ask them to write down all of their ideas and bring them to a brainstorming session.
  • Invite them to a planning meeting.
  • Ask them to list all of the ways they could help.
  • Help them evaluate their ideas based on larger goals.
  • Put them in charge of a project or initiative so they can see what it takes to do the work.


To solve the issue of his prolifically complaining employee, Phil Knight ignored many of his letters, recognized that he had initiative, and kept him busy by putting him in charge of a branch of Nike as soon as he could. This gave the man the ability to make change and solve problems, as well as the understanding of all of the complexities it takes to run a shoe business.


Do you have someone in your life who likes to find solutions to problems? Have you given them autonomy to solve those problems? Let me know how it went in the comments.


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