How to Go From Problem to Success
Both personal and professional problems reside on a spectrum between lack of awareness to systematized mastery. Below are the steps leaders must take on the journey from problem to success.
It is important to be mindful of which step we are on because it helps us to remain nimble in our expectations and give ample consideration to the most beneficial resolution. Here are eight positions where a leader may find himself on the road from problem to success.
1—UNAWARE – Not aware I have a problem.
In this phase, a person may not seem to recognize what the problem is. He or she may suffer the consequences of it and may certainly feel the effects while remaining uninformed of the problem itself. I am reminded of a friend whose small organization has sputtered around, not growing for over ten years. He struggles with that fact, but does not wrestle with the cause, which I believe to be his leadership style. He is authoritarian and does not empower people. He simply is not aware of what the problem is. I have humbly confronted others in this position before, telling them, “You have a god-complex. If you don’t change and seek feedback from others, you will significantly hinder your potential in life.”
Often, the issue at hand is two-fold. First, if there is an inability to accept feedback from others, people may simply stop giving feedback. Second, there may be a lack of discipline to ask others where they see the problem lies. This is often referred to as a blind spot. Another common phrase to describe it is: you don’t know what you don’t know. In order to minimize this effect, we must seek to learn what others see that we may be unable to see for ourselves.
2—APATHETIC – Aware, but I don’t care.
If the first step was difficult, I think this one might be worse. A person in this position learns that there’s an issue, but they don’t care to fix it. It could be that their character has not developed and matured. It may even be that they intentionally will not change because they want to provoke or antagonize someone else. Or, they may just dislike the concept of change or growth. I have seen all these cases in my leadership journey.
If you are reading this article, I seriously doubt this is you. When I see this trait in others, I quickly give them an ultimatum: If you don’t want to be coachable, I will continue to love you and respect you, but you will not be in my circle. If this person cares about our relationship, they change. This is a difficult place to dislodge people from, but we must try to do that as leaders.
3—UNINFORMED – Aware, but don’t know how to fix it.
Sometimes a person is aware they have a problem, and they are willing to change it, however, they just don’t know the solution. This is where seeking knowledge becomes crucial. You might be able to help another person with your perspective on possible solutions. Some trial and error may be required to test theories for a solution.
4—UNABLE – I think I know how to fix it, but I keep failing when I try.
I am reminded of several issues in my life that I have tried to fix, but simply could not. What we must do here is keep trying or learn a different approach to solving the problem.
5—INCONSISTENT – I win sometimes, but not consistently.
At this stage, we are getting some wins over the issue, but not consistently. If it’s a person we are helping, we must remind them that consistency is key. Imagine that a leader you are working has a problem with controlling their emotions and is occasionally angry. Even though they may have improved in this area, if there is no consistency, there will be continued damage.
6—CONSISTENT – I am consistent, but not ingrained.
We may see ourselves or others become consistent in gaining wins over our problem, however, we are not at the stage of truly mastering this skill. Usually, there are two reasons: One, enough time has not elapsed to allow us to experience this new strength in different settings. Two, we are not being intentional to garner new experiences for practice.
7—PRACTITIONER – Ingrained, but not systematized.
The practitioner stage is when knowledge is inculcated into our life. Imagine a cup full of crushed ice. As you pour water into it, all the crevices between the pieces of ice are slowly filled. That’s how knowledge is garnered for a practitioner; every pocket of the “unknown” is filled with experiential mastery. The evidence is seen when a person starts talking and teaching in this area. I strive to be a practitioner; I aim to dwell here in my growth journey. It is not easy or quick to get here, but it is worth the journey. There is one more stage beyond that of a practitioner that we can aim for.
8—SYSTEMATIZED – Knowledge ingrained and systematized.
The problem I have seen with getting into the practitioner level is that regression is always possible unless we have systems in place to review and remind ourselves of what we know, who we aim to be, and what we aim to do. Systematization—usually written descriptions or summaries—are regularly reviewed and shared with others.
I hope this helps you assess your growth journey in your specific areas of interest, or where a person you are helping is along their own path.
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