Don’t Pretend Things Smell Good when they Stink – Instead Shift Focus

Relentless problems feel like driving around with garbage in the backseat. You wonder if the journey’s worth it.

Don’t pretend things smell good when they stink. Dig into problems, but don’t set up residence.

Move from smelly problem to preferred future. But how?


People before smelly problems:

Focus on people before digging into problems.

The leaderly response to stink is empathy for your team.

The rush to fix problems devalues people, but empathy respects and connects.

Exploring problems and seeking solutions comes easier when people feel respected and connected.

Talk to the person in front of you before working on the bag of garbage they brought to your office.

  1. Thanks for bringing this up. My first response to hearing something uncomfortable is, “Thanks for saying that.”
  2. That must feel….
  3. I’m sorry to hear that.
  4. This seems to be troubling you.
  5. What’s troubling to you about this? (“To you,” turns the conversation to the person in front of you.)

Create and focus energy:

“Where focus goes, energy flows.” Tony Robbins

End your fascination with smelly garbage. Don’t wallow in garbage. Define positive outcomes.

You never find satisfaction until you focus on positive outcomes.

Working to make garbage go away is useful, but what if there’s something better? Ask your team, “What positive outcome are we seeking?” Perhaps they’ve lived in garbage so long they’ve lost sight of what they really want.

Negative objectives feel desperate and weak but building something better feels like leadership.

Respect the power of words:

Leaders who walk around looking for something to complain about stink.

When someone walks into your office with a bag of garbage ask, “What strengths do you have that enable you to seize this opportunity?”

The way you approach challenges and opportunities impacts your team’s attitude and energy.

What are some leaderly responses to smelly problems? Unleaderly?

Bonus material:

Businesses in Survival Mode Require Faster Problem Solving (Biz Journal)

What is problem solving (ASQ)

Now available!!