The end of problems

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Change in itself is not a cause for concern. Whatever forces of change are unleashed on your business will either create opportunities or problems. It is the potential for problems that gets us excitable. In this third short blog on change I want to focus on the nature of problems. 

But in order to really help you, as you read this article, I want you to make a list of whats in your bag right now (I use the metaphor of the bag with my clients as a way of getting them to articulate what is on their mind that is unresolved). 

Make a list of the ten biggest problems you are facing right now, whatever they may be. Then you can read on. 

You create your problems

There is no such things as ‘problems’. You frame a situation as a problem when you apply the label to it. It can only exist if you have decided that there is something you want to achieve, or some way that you want to be, which you think the situation is stopping you moving towards.

People love to tell me their problems. Perhaps once you give yourself a label indicating you are some sort of change agent it should be expected. I’m good at processing problems but I’m not interested in giving people solutions, no matter how obvious to me that may be. That is just plain lazy. I’m interested in helping people become supreme problem solvers

As they sit in front of me verbally vomiting I’m scanning their language and movement and extracting three pieces of information
·     why are they using the label ‘problem’
·     what data is present or missing
·     what is driving their chosen response. 

You see half the time you are making the problem up. Running a business is challenging enough without making shit up, so for me to allow you to label something a problem it must pass several quality checks with me. 

Check your list of ten against them

1: Is your problem real or imagined? 

People confuse problems with risks so let me make it nice and simple for you. If the situation is making bad stuff happen now, you may call it a problem. If bad stuff may happen in the future you don’t have yourself a problem, you have a risk. Problems need remediation, risks need consideration. 

2: Is it the real problem?

Are you confusing the effects of your problem with the cause? If you are going to invest energy in fixing a problem you at least want to make sure you fix the right thing.

I was with one of the salesmen I coach last week and he was telling me about a problem he had. He missed his target because he lost a sale that he had planned on winning.. I’ve lost lots of sales, many of which I thought were in the bag yet I don’t see that as a problem. It is the nature of sales that not everyone buys. During the conversation he realised that losing the sale wasn’t the problem, but the lack of momentum in his sales pipeline was. That was what he needed to put his attention on.

3: Is it worth fixing? 

Every company I have ever worked for, or with, has had things that didn’t work so well. Many of the big companies I worked for, once you got past the corporate veneer, were pretty much held together with sticking plasters and glue. 

Resist the urge to fix every problem; because you can’t. Instead focus on activities that are the biggest priority right now or that will yield the biggest return on effort / investment. Are you really going to spend your time repairing the kettle in the kitchen or are you going to use it to find and win another big account?

4: Is it your problem?

Are you taking on someone else’s problem? You pay people to deal with situations for you so don’t allow them to become lazy by bringing their problems to you. Make your people take responsibility and support them by coaching them, not by feeding them answers (you could show them this article for a start) 

If your situation passes these key tests then you have my full permission to go ahead and implement a fix so that you can maintain momentum in the direction you want to take. 

My experience is that most problems when looked at objectively require one simple committed decision or action to remove them from the field of play. 

Every single problem also contains the seed of an opportunity to break through to a new level of personal performance, if you choose to engage with them in a positive way. 

Tomorrow in number 4 I’ll talk about internal change and transformation and how the breakthrough you seek is only one thought away. 

If you are ready to really explore how to move yourself, your team and your company forward then you need to book yourself in to my ‘Breakfast and Breakthroughs’. You’ll get a much firmer grip on what it is you are truly shooting for and more importantly an understanding of what is really holding you back. Ping me an email and we’ll get details to you.