We all know the person at work who has all sorts of great ideas.  Great ideas that never get past being just that: ideas.  These people have no intentions of doing anything, they just have a compulsion to voice their thoughts out loud.  

In Special Forces, we call these people the “Good Idea Fairy” or “GIF”.  GIFs are people who have lots of ideas how to do things “better”, but are incapable of taking any steps to implement them.  

They love to offer opinions and gossip about a chosen course of action, but never seem able to offer any viable solution, input, or alternative.  To be frank, they just like to whine and complain.

The GIF is never alone.  Where there’s a GIF you’ll almost always find their friend the Problem-Problem-Person or “Triple P”.  Triple P’s are people who constantly showcase problems just to watch the drama unfold. 

They are easily distinguishable from their opposites, “Problem-Solution-People”.  These people, upon identifying problems, quickly and pro-actively develop ideas and work to fix problems.  Additionally, they start implementing their solutions the first chance they get.

Problem-Solution-People are easy to identify.  They’re the ones at work who help (no matter if it’s part of their KPIs) and are proactive and cooperative team players.   They are far less concerned with problems than with correcting them and making sure they don’t happen again.

Solutions oriented people are the ones you enjoy working with.  They are the ones going about their day working rather than trying to fill time with gossip and negative energy.

Rare are individuals born with the inherent ability and desire to pro-actively attack and solve problems without seeking recognition for their efforts.  Even more rare is the organization filled with these proactive problem solvers – people who engage targets and put out fires before others even smell the smoke.  

It’s because this mindset doesn’t come naturally to most people.  Sadly, we are failing to teach it to our children and personal accountability is dying.  That’s a whole different post though…

Know this: every organization has Good Idea Fairies.  Some have more than others, but I promise you they are there.  You are not immune to this problem.  I can say that with certainty as I started by telling you how they were even in Special Forces teams.  

Think back to a meeting that went on far too long because the Triple P wouldn’t stop offering suggestions or ideas.  What about the most recent time an entire new project was dumped on you because the GIF planted a seed in the boss’s brain?  

How much extra work has been added to your day(s) due to GIFs?

This brings me to a semi-sensitive point: sometimes your boss is the GIF.  This is big trouble., but if could be worse: Imagine having a boss who’s a combination GIF/Triple P.

It happens more than you think and when it does it’s a clear signal the organization has serious troubles.

But… “troubles” doesn’t mean fatal.  It isn’t cut and dry.  The first step is finding the GIFs and Triple Ps.  The you can begin fixing the organization and start operating to its full capabilities.

The ability to identify problems resides in each of us.  It’s part of our limbic brain and drives our survival instincts.   We all know how to do it.  

The key fixing your company is in selecting the proper people, educating them on expectations and standards, and then empowering them to do their job with as little interference as possible. 

By selecting the correct people, educating their weaknesses (everybody has them) and empowering their strengths (everybody has them) you’ll see the organization start to transform.  

You’ll start accomplishing things previously thought impossible and you’ll do so with less drama and strife than ever thought possible.

When your organization is filled with the right people who are energetic, passionate, and empowered it’s unbelievable what you’ll accomplish.  You’ll start to accomplish things daily you previously couldn’t in a month.

The best example I have is the Army Special Forces, or Green Berets.  We call ourselves “Quiet Professionals,” and we mean it.  Sure, we have our fair share of braggarts, but I’ll argue they typically don’t occupy positions of importance.  If they do, it normally isn’t for long.

Green Berets are taught to think unconventionally, to master the basics, and are encouraged at every level to solve problems.  Very often these solutions require a high degree of creativity and effort to accomplish.  

Across the board we collectively embrace learning and strive to be the best at all we do.  Throughout all training phases (especially after we’ve made it to a Team) our problem-solving ability is constantly honed to a fine razor-sharp edge.

Problem-Problem-People are anathema to us and we avoid them like the plague.  Oh yeah, and whenever possible we box up the Good Idea Fairies and put them on the shelf.  Far, far back on the shelf with the uniform regulations and other Army publications.

We don’t seek recognition and are unconventional, cooperative, yet disruptive team players. 

We understand Quiet Professionals DO the job – no matter what that job is.  We put fingers to keyboard and produce products. We pick up the phone and make sales.  We lead energetic and professional organizations with little to no drama.  We complete our missions to the best of our ability.  We figure it out.  No Matter What. Period. 

Often it’s neither pretty nor enjoyable.  But we get it done.

We win both the battles and the war.  We don’t talk endlessly about it because we don’t need to. As Nike says – we “Just do it.”   We solve problems.

Dizzy Dean, the great baseball player, said it best – “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”  Ask yourself, have you been bragging or are you truly doing it?  

Be a problem solver.  Be a Quiet Professional.