There’s an old notion I’ve heard, I think it might be Buddhist, that says where you have the deepest sorrow, you have the capacity for the greatest joy.
We’re not trying to be pop-spiritual gurus here, but we do see a great truth in this old idea.
So often in modern businesses we find a culture of covering up, down playing or outright denial of problems, mistakes and struggles. People are fearful of admitting their inability to be perfect and to do everything perfectly, because it may impact their reputation, career or prospects within the company, or even their job security.
We’ve written about why this type of culture can undermine business assurance and should be actively avoided by leaders at the highest level of the business, in the first of our C Suite Blog Series [Read it here].
But it goes deeper than just the long-term security of the business bottom line.
Recognising your organisation’s struggles is the clearest signpost to your greatest potential for impact.
As our opening concept suggests, seeing our struggle as our greatest opportunity changes our mindset. We can begin to see struggles as a positive aspect of our working environment and a huge potential for improved business assurance.
It can also help us stay calm when we are suddenly presented with big problems that may otherwise fill us with fear, worry or dread.
To effectively allow a positive approach to recognising, defining and assessing solution options in business settings, we first need to believe that we can actually find effective solutions. We need a deep, underlying confidence that, as online entrepreneurial guru Marie Forleo is famous for saying, “Everything is figure-outable”.
If we don’t believe that there’s a solution to every problem, we can easily be overwhelmed by the scope and cost of solving the issues we encounter. Developing this mindset can be the hardest part in gaining the Zen-like approach to business issues management.
At Intraversed, we do believe any problem is solvable (well – those are big words, but we definitely believe that 99% of business problems are solvable). But problems are solvable only if you’re willing to see the full scale of the mess and full depth of the effect of the problem, without anger or blame, dodging truth or band-aiding to make things look better that they are.
Are you guilty of burying your head in the sand when you see big problems?
Do you see a problem as an opportunity for the creative process of finding resolutions?
Given it’s our line of work, maybe we’re more practiced at adopting this can-solve approach than others. After years of consultancy engagements, we realise that we’ve virtually never encountered problems that are truly unsolvable. They just need people willing to do what’s required to solve them.
There are three paths we’ve seen business leaders take when large problems come their way. See if you identify with any of them.
The Houdini Effect
Houdini, the famous escape artist, could be tied up in the most impossible combinations of chains, locks and straight jackets, and within a given time limit, manage to wriggle out of those constraints and escape the inevitable tragedy that would befall him if he failed in his escape attempt – think drowning, fire or crushing.
It was edge-of-your-seat entertainment at the time.
As entertaining as the world found Houdini’s escape skills, in business, these skills are toxic. But we are sad to say, the Houdini approach is one many senior business leaders take when they realise they’re faced with issues that don’t have an easy solution. Wriggle until you escape, hopefully in the nick of time.
The Hare and the Tortoise
Sadly, we’ve frequently encountered a quick-win approach to problem solving, in contrast to doing the thorough analysis work that results in finding the best and most effective solution option.
This path is taken by business leaders who usually don’t have the time or warning to Houdini their way out of big problems, or who have chosen not to see just how far reaching the issue really is. It’s a short-sighted approach that is disrespectful to the staff who have to implement solutions because leaders are unwilling to expend the (usually) small amount of additional fact-gathering effort to reduce the amount of implementation effort.
It’s the tortoise and hare story - everyone backs the fast fluffy bunny because they can’t see that the tortoise is the competitor with greater solidity, reliability and staying power.
The Apple Approach
In contrast, the approach Steve Jobs took with Apple was almost the opposite. When he got clarity on his vision of creating a new product which solved an issue his customers had (though they didn’t even know they had it), Jobs gave his team the goal to create that vision. He continually insisted that his team never give up searching for the solutions that would deliver the perfect representation of his vision.
Under Jobs’ leadership, each new Apple gadget & tool was a visually beautiful, intuitive & easy-to-use, mind-blowingly useful example of life-improving technology.
Apple’s popularity became unmatched by competitors because Jobs kept going back to the products and actively sought to identify, not just problems, but even the slightest imperfections that could be improved upon. He sought out problems and set about solving them in the most elegant way he could.
Consequently, not only did Jobs become the unrivalled leader in his field but he has had one of the biggest impacts on the day-to-day lives of humans in the last 40 years, or at the very least, the biggest impact on our communication and entertainment (not to mention creating the world’s highest net profit tech company).
When you believe everything is solvable, it’s necessary to also accept that it will require commitment and work. No question. It will.
But it will also allow your business to take an excited and energised attitude to identifying problems, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement, in their products, services AND internal systems, processes and functions.
And that can lead to immense profits and growth.
Are you brave enough to really take a look at the big problems faced by your organisation?
In our line of work, that specifically means those systemic operational issues that don’t seem to be going away.
As a C-Suite Executive, you may not even be aware of the big, operational issues that don’t seem to be going away. You may never hear of them. Do you know what you will hear about that can alert you to them?
Look for things like:
And those things threaten your business assurance.
We encourage senior managers who see these patterns to actively push their direct reports for more information. But if you haven’t promoted a culture of solution-focused, healthy issues management, you’re not likely to get an honest answer, and that’s assuming your direct reports are getting honest answers from theirs direct reports. A culture pervades all levels of the business!
So how do you go about developing a solution-finding culture that can take your business to greater strength and assurance?
You start by being excited to see the problems clearly and fully, without anger, fear, blame or doubt that they are solvable.
If you’re ready to create a solution-finding culture and to start seeing your organisation’s problems fully, we can help.
When we consult with businesses experiencing operational issues, more often than not, it’s the same core problems we encounter. And fixing these improves business assurance exponentially.
We think it’s a great way to begin pulling back the lid on your organisation and seeing what’s really going on.
Straight forward? Yes.
But it is do-able.
We’ve seen it make a huge difference to the quality of the reporting and information that C-Suite Execs use to make business decisions. That’s business assurance.
And we’re always here if you need more help. Why not meet us for a coffee? We’ll discuss your results from the Business Assurance Assessment Tool (get it here) and guide you toward the next steps you should take to create better business assurance.
Previous Blog: C-Suite Special Series Part 1: What does being a great business leader really mean? (read it here)
In the meantime, why not connect on LinkedIn here?