7 Ways to Push Through Thorny Issues

Thorny issues always get worse when unattended. Inevitably, you tumble into disappointing results, heated confrontation, broken relationships, or fatalistic resignation.

Thorny issues are pivotal moments that confirm, confront, or establish trajectory.


There is no arrival only trajectory.

Pulling back:

Pulling back prolongs agony, elevates stress, and strengthens negative trajectory.

Fear may be right. If you bring it up, it might blowup.

When you feel like pulling back, push through.

Pushing through:

Address your need to pull back with curiosity not solutions.

  1. Explore concerns in small contexts with trusted colleagues. Don’t stir the pot before you know what’s in it.
  2. Avoid quick assessments. Thorny issues aren’t black and white.
  3. Be uncertain with optimism. “I’m not sure what’s happening, but I want to deal with any issues before they get out of hand.”
  4. Reject quick solutions.

Use open language:

  1. “What issues are you seeing,” is better than, “This is the issue.”
  2. “What might be causing this,” is better than, “This is the result of….”
  3. “What are our options,” is better than, “We need to ….”

Open language protects you from oversimplifying problems, solutions, and strategies.

7 ways to push through thorny issues:

  1. Take responsibility without pointing fingers.
  2. Stay involved. Don’t light a fire and walk away.
  3. Define and declare issues honestly. If things aren’t working say so.
  4. Appeal to good intentions. Falling short was not for lack of trying. It’s frustrating but true.
  5. Work toward balance. Discuss options with Mr. Compassion, Mr. Doer, and Mr. Vision.
  6. Develop solutions that have behavioral expressions. Nothing changes until behaviors change.
  7. Affirm progress and future goals more than pointing out failure.

Push through thorny issues with curiosity and openness. Pulling back is tumbling down.

What should leaders avoid when thorny issues arise?

How do you deal with thorny issues?