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.
- Thanks for bringing this up. My first response to hearing something uncomfortable is, “Thanks for saying that.”
- That must feel….
- I’m sorry to hear that.
- This seems to be troubling you.
- 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?
Businesses in Survival Mode Require Faster Problem Solving (Biz Journal)
What is problem solving (ASQ)
“You never find satisfaction until you focus on positive outcomes.” So how come this is so difficult for most engage in and with? It just seems we are bombarded with fear, doubt and uncertainty (FDU) (think virus) in most everything. While we should acknowledge FDU when we let that cloud our focus, our view, our attitude it is challenging to even focus on any positive outcomes. Woe is me seems to rule the day and I do not like that, in fact I actively fight that but find I am in the minority in doing so.
Thanks Roger. You’re so right. We haven’t mastered the skill of acknowledging the stink and pressing into the future. We get stuck in the stink. It DOES require intention and concentration for most of us.
Perhaps a question to ask is, “How is circling the stink helping you/us? What do you want to do about that?”
When people say they can’t think of anything… maybe a kick in the butt is appropriate. “I had no idea you were so helpless.” (Only say that to your friends!)
Ask—how can I help?
After listening ask—what steps do you think should be taken?
Who owns this problem?
How important is it to solve this problem at this time?
Thanks Paul. Great questions. One thing I appreciate about your comment is how it doesn’t put someone on the spot. You didn’t say, What do YOU want to do.
Love your approach…if feels like an exploration instead of an accusation.
Thanks for the reminder to first focus on the person on front of me and acknowledge the work they did in collecting the garbage. Yes, it stinks and its troubling. Now lets focus on a positive solution. Sometimes the people part of the equation gets lost!
Thanks Jenny. So glad you noticed that. Perhaps we rush to solutions while all people really wanted is an affirmation and encouragement to go fight the dragon.
After contemplating focusing on the person that brought up the smelly situation, it occurs to me that this would most likely slow some people down. They would have to take a moment to think about what is actually unpleasant to them and create a pathway to a satisfactory ending. Changing your own ideas of how to deal with smelly situations will be more helpful in the end to those that come for assistance.
Thanks Adam. I hope school is going well for you. Good to see you again. Over-all, I think a bit of reflection time serves us well. Good observations.
Thank you Dan! You are always inspiring
You know what’s really troubling? When they know better and still mess it up. You get that sense that ears are closed during the conversation. Surely the questions “Paul Thornton” brings up are crucial, the real fix is when everyone applies themselves. ” Nothing works without application”.