How to Rise Above Problem-Based Thinking
Good days turn bad quickly.
Eight hours of good performance are ruined by five minutes of tension with a colleague. Everything in your day went well, but you have a bad experience – at the end of your day. Now it’s a bad day.
You can’t get screw ups off your mind.
A team member performs well for three months and screws up the day before their performance evaluation. What’s the topic of conversation?
The recency bias gives more weight to yesterday’s bad experience than a month’s worth of good experiences. No wonder you’re unhappy with people, bosses, and organizations.
Bad experiences are stickier and more impactful than good.
Anxiety peeks around the corner looking for the next problem or difficulty. Stress in your gut concerns what might happen.
It’s likely you’re an expert at looking for bad and a novice at looking for good.
Awake and active:
Don’t fall asleep at the wheel.
Successful leaders anticipate surprises, problems, and challenges. Scan the horizon for storms. It doesn’t help to batten the hatches after the boat fills with water.
Lousy leaders ANTICIPATE storms. Successful leaders ANTICIPATE and ACT.
It’s not anticipating, but acting, that leads to success. Don’t simply think about what might go wrong – prepare.
Stress is the consequence of anticipating a problem but doing nothing about it.
You worry that a talented person might leave your team.
You’re stressed that a great customer might go to your competitor.
You’re concerned about the schedule for a project.
A team member is falling short.
The real question:
The real question isn’t IF problems are brewing. The real question is, “What will you do about that?”
- Get curious.
- Make phone calls.
- Prioritize. What’s the likelihood that the hurricane you’re stressed over is going to happen?
- Change something.
How might leaders anticipate bad and still remain positive leaders?
Suggested reading: When, by Daniel Pink
Successful leaders anticipate surprises, problems, and challenges. Scan the horizon for storms. It doesn’t help to batten the hatches after the boat fills with water. This requires that you have confidence in yourself, your team and that you are actively thinking forward with contingencies for events that might occur. It also (IMHO) means you look at challenges (not problems) in a positive way and that you do understand that you will not always have the “right” solution to all challenges. I will continually fight back at the negative connotations of the word problem, better to look at what you face at challenges (which is a more positive word).
Thanks Roger. I find your reference to confidence very helpful. It takes confidence to face reality. It takes confidence to be open to others.
First and foremost everything is about life. At the end of the day everything will always be about the circle of life. College, job, family, friends, it all connects to a greater reality.
An authentic leader will build the strength to endure. Because they realize that working at an organization is about facing reality. Part of reality is resolution. If someone is in a leadership position and expects everyone to love him/her then they are delusional. People are human and personalities will clash. When you are at the top, there is somebody looking to find a way to bring you down. That’s reality. As long as you live on this planet problems will come and problems will go.
I am a deeply spiritual black woman. I come from a long line of black women who grew up during the Jim Crow South. Whenever faced with troubles in life I was taught that you stayed prayed up and abide by the Power of the Almighty. I was taught to believe that Faith will pull me through. This was instilled within me at an early age. So I see life through the lens of spirituality. My mother taught me a long time ago, “if it don’t feel right, it ain’t right.”
Basically, the message that I am trying to convey is do not avoid issues. It is impossible to avoid issues. This includes the workplace. Whether an issue/problem seems minute or colossal. Deal with it. Life is a series of challenges. In America we have a tendency to sensationalize life. Life is not to be played because it is not a game. Life is real. Believe it.
We are human first and employees second. Not to mention there is more to life than meets the eye. Life is always doing its best to get your attention. The problem is we are not paying attention. We expect everything to be wrapped up neatly in a box with a pretty bow tied at the top. That’s not reality. The struggle is real. For some unknown reason, man has gotten to the point he no longer thinks he is supposed to struggle in life. Again, the struggle is real. There is no shame in admitting that one is struggling with an issue. Man must learn how to stop fighting life and embrace the hidden realities. There is a natural and hidden order to everything on this planet.
Perhaps, instead of pretending there isn’t a problem or issue, we start recognizing that life is trying to show us something. A Greater Reality.
ZK; Such a good take on it all most notably your spiritual discussion. I was influenced as a young boy by my maternal Grandparents (most notably Grandma Elizabeth) who was the Sunday School director at her church for over 50 years. Elizabeth and Simon (who grew up and married during the Great Depression) as with your mother had the same take, if it does not feel right (Simon called it gut reaction) its not right. I’ve always taken that pathway on my work (and non work life), always knowing that if I let him God would direct me on the right pathway. That’s why I take issue with referring to what we face as problems, IMHO what I face each day whether at work or beyond are not problems, they are life challenges and how I face those challenges and move forward reflects on me, my ancestors, my upbringing and how God looks at me. I embrace life and have to admit I am sometimes tired (because I am human) but light shines through at times (4 weeks ago my Daughter gave birth to my first grandchild (a boy)) and I use those times to pump me up and keep me going. Again thank you for shining a good light on the discussion today.
Thanks ZK. Maybe it’s better to ask WHAT than it is to ask WHY. What might I learn from this situation? Or, we could ask HOW instead of WHY. How can I be better? How might I grow? Cheers
Good morning Dan,
Once again my response will involve life. Everything centers on life in and of itself. You must figure out for yourself what life is showing/telling you. There isn’t a book on the market that can tell you how to live your life. Sure, we can read books that will inspire us to make more conscious choices. Yet, when it comes to our lives we are totally responsible for the way we live. However, in America we are not taught about life. At an early age we are indoctrinated into the matrix. We all hear: “Go to high school and graduate. Go to college and graduate. Land that decent job and make that money and you’ll be set for the rest of your life.” No. I didn’t come to this planet to become another mans economic slave. I don’t mind working or working hard, and contributing to society. Currently, I do work two jobs. I don’t have a problem being a law-abiding citizen. There is more to life than working a job. But I wish to live on my terms and conditions.That means having the freedom and rights to be who I am and living my life as I see fit.
Whether we realize it or not many of us are living a lie. We get up each morning and go to a job that we despise, but pretend to be happy employees because we need our paychecks to keep a roof over our heads. Who said it had to be this way? Living in freedom means I wake-up every morning doing what I love the most and that which brings me joy. Of course, I have to work but at least I am doing something that brings me fulfillment.
Life centers on reality. We all have to figure out what works for us in due time. Nothing happens in the blink of an eye. However, that’s what we’ve been led to believe.
Sadly, some people will never be able to see life for what it is. They will miss the whole point of living on this planet.
The best way to anticipate challenges on the front-line is to keep your ear to the ground. A good leader must listen and listen well and not only for the sake of relationship building. Good listening also serves another leadership purpose and that is knowing the situation today and gathering the information needed to predict tomorrow so that a proper response can be developed. A leader must listen to his followers and his followers’ followers; he must remain in tune. If you anticipate the challenges, it may be easier to remain positive in the event that something truly upsetting goes awry.
Thanks Garry. So true. Distance from the people who actually do the work is dangers. Isolation leads to ignorance and arrogance. Sadly, listening skills tend to diminish as people go up the ladder.