When we try to work something out together in our Buddhist center, there are sometimes problems that lead to confusion and we don’t decide on anything. What can you advise us?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I always use the sandbox principle: “So, who wants to play with the shovel? Who wants the rake?”—and so on. One divides the project into several parts and then asks, “Who wants to take care of this, and who wants to do that?” If nobody volunteers, then ask, “Are there any problems we should deal with?” Someone will definitely respond, and then you say, “So, that’s what you’re concerned about. Do you have any ideas about how to solve it?” Then ask, “Who else is interested in this?” and when several people have come together, you say to them, “Good, you’re all interested in that, so sit down together and figure it out!”

If you spend a lot of time sitting around chatting, then it’s good for the coffee industry and the people who sell armchairs. But if you want to get something done, then always keep things fresh, cut through problems, don’t allow trips, keep everything constructive, and say, “You do this and you do that. You have a complaint there, so you are the specialist to figure it out.”

I always think of the others as dignified ladies and gentlemen; they all want the best and each of them has experience in something important. One must trust in people’s abilities and give them responsibility, not just unskilled jobs. If the result is not perfect right away, then talk it over and let them improve what they’re doing. This way, we play around with things until everybody is happy. It works well and saves a lot of time.