How to Solve the Toughest Challenges

6 techniques to use when the best solution isn’t clear or easy.

There are situations we face in a day where the solutions come easily. We give a quick answer, send an email or stop by someone’s desk and, “Boom!” Problem solved and we are on to the next project.

But then there are those situations that torment the brain. The answer isn’t clear, multiple directions seem viable, or a path to the desired outcome just won’t emerge. These tough challenges can be overwhelming and frustrating. Where do you go next for an answer?

After all, it’s likely the solution is something that has never been done before. It requires creative thinking and newly formed options. It may even be a bit risky since multiple possibilities all make sense. How will you know which one is best?

When faced with these tough challenges, the following six techniques will help you to narrow down the solutions and move in the best direction.  Continue reading “How to Solve the Toughest Challenges”

4 Signs You Need to Exercise Leadership Restraint

These are the times when holding back is the best strategy to move forward.

Leaders who exercise appropriate restraint are often more effective and more well-respected than those who charge ahead. They know that holding back at the right times is actually the best strategy for moving forward.

As someone in a leadership role, your job is no longer about you. Instead, your days are about getting work done through others. Your focus is on sharing vision, motivating team members, helping them grow, keeping the bigger picture in mind, and empowering individuals to succeed.

This isn’t to say that leaders don’t still have the urge to jump in and push things forward themselves, but they know when this will hurt more than help. They recognize the signs that their own instincts and best intentions may need to be restrained. They take note and hold back.

Here are four signs that your best intentions may need to be restrained. Continue reading “4 Signs You Need to Exercise Leadership Restraint”

The One Focus That Can Advance Your Career

This way of thinking most often defines leaders, but it’s rare and difficult to keep up. Do you have it? 

There is a rare focus that almost always advances careers. It defines leaders and changes perspectives. There is also a gravitational-like pull away from this focus, making it difficult to maintain. Those who continually fight to keep it are the ones who move forward, help organizations solve tough problems, and easily engage the right collaborative partners.

This focus can be developed and used by anyone in the organization with intention and effort. It doesn’t require a certain title or role to get started. It can be used by those at any level, from any seat.

Continue reading “The One Focus That Can Advance Your Career”

Are YOU The Reason Progress Has Stalled?

5 signs you may be unintentionally causing problems.

We’ve all been there. That time when progress on an initiative or project has suddenly become excruciatingly slow or even halted altogether. Blockers seem to be in every corner and momentum no longer exists. But you can’t quite put your finger on why. As you rack your brain for the answer, you search through every possible reason for the slowdown and frustration. At least you think it’s every reason…

What if YOU are the reason the progress has stalled? What if, unknowingly, your actions and responses are sending an unintentional message causing momentum to cease?

Much of how we operate on a daily basis is simply automatic. It would take too much work for every move and thought to be intentional. Over time we have created habits of personal behavior that we no longer notice. The mindless nature of such habits can be helpful for productivity, but they can also get us into trouble. Because habits become instinctive, we don’t realize when they are the reason others are shutting down. We don’t hear the regular internal dialogue that is actually running the show.

Here are five signs that you (and your unconscious habits) may be contributing to the problem more than the solution.  Continue reading “Are YOU The Reason Progress Has Stalled?”

6 Actions That Create Buy-in for Change

How to gain support and advocacy when change needs to happen 

Last week we explored two different approaches to creating change – the “slammer” vs. the “massager.” Now that you have determined the approach you tend to take, let’s talk about creating the buy-in needed to support your change efforts.

Not only do changes take time, but they take multiple person power. You need to bring people along, build advocates, search out collaborative partnerships and engage intelligence other than your own. Lasting changes require buy-in from others. How can you do this effectively?

Here are six actions to use throughout your change creation efforts: Continue reading “6 Actions That Create Buy-in for Change”

Which Type of Change Creator are You?

These two approaches lead to vastly different results.

What do you do when you can see a better way and you know that something needs to change in order to get there?

Most of us approach creating any type of change in one of two ways. One of these methods is more impactful and lasting than the other. Unfortunately, that one is generally more difficult.

Which type of change creator are you? Continue reading “Which Type of Change Creator are You?”

3 Steps to Move from Chaos to Clarity

Break the cycle of constant chaos and confusion, reduce stress, and rise above your frenetic pace.

Are you running so quickly from fire to fire everyday that everything seems a blur? CHAOS.
Is a deadline looming, but confusion is blocking progress? CHAOS.
Are there too many conflicting opinions in the room causing a deadlock on any forward movement? CHAOS.
Are there simply too many wheels in motion at one time, making it impossible to gain traction on any single issue? CHAOS.
Is the project is so big you are having a hard time wrapping your mind around it? CHAOS.

Any one of these can infuse some chaos into your workplace. Add several together (or insert a few others) and it may begin to feel like chaos is in charge. When chaos takes over, forward movement halts and stress levels skyrocket. Working amidst such a whirlwind each day makes strategizing for success or solving for long-term problems seem like a nearly impossible task.

In order to get ahead, you must break this out-of-control cycle and find the clarity necessary for forward movement. But, while you live in the reactive state of constant stress and issues caused by chaos, breaking the cycle is the last thing you have time to think about. In this state, it seems all you have time to do is keep running at full steam. This is only a short-term solution. Without a release from the chaos, burnout will become a reality and eventually your competition will pull ahead with ease.

What can you do?

The following three steps will guide you out of the madness that chaos creates. Using them might not seem easy at first, but they will help you to turn towards the forward movement that rises above and beyond the daily fires.  Continue reading “3 Steps to Move from Chaos to Clarity”

We’re Wrong About Delegation

It’s not really about time management or workload balance. That’s just a nice byproduct.

Too much to do and not enough time? Delegate! Give someone else some of the tasks in order to spread out the workload and manage the time more effectively. After all, that’s why we delegate… or is it?

What if our approach to delegation is all wrong? What if the heart of delegation isn’t really about time management? What if that’s the byproduct and not the purpose?

Most writing about delegation focuses on how to use it for time management and workload balance, what types of tasks to delegate, and why we have a hard time doing it (i.e. takes too long to teach someone else, I know I can do it well, etc.).

These statements are all true. Delegation does help with time management and workload balance. It is important to think about what to delegate and some people have a harder time with it than others (enter high achievers and those with perfectionist tendencies). But if this is all leaders think about when we think about delegation, we are missing the point. Continue reading “We’re Wrong About Delegation”

What Type of Thinker Are You?

Inserting your natural preference at the wrong time can unknowingly inhibit progress. Here’s how to know your thinking type and when you should put it to use.

You have a preferred way of thinking. We all do. It is as natural and easy as breathing. The way you think helps to determine where and when you will excel most. It also determines when you should step back and step away. If we insert our natural style of thinking at the wrong time, we can unknowingly inhibit progress.

What is your style of thinking? When is it best for to step in to help and when should you step back to allow others to take the lead? Continue reading “What Type of Thinker Are You?”

Never-ending Issues? One Approach Designed to Keep You Moving Forward

Have you ever had a day when it seems like the issues coming at you don’t end?

Last week, I had the rarity of one day with very few meetings on my calendar. I prepared myself to crank through my “to do” list and clear my inbox. I arrived at my office with a full cup of coffee and a spirit of excitement. Then, I saw an unexpected issue looming in the first email I opened.

This was only the beginning. Issue after issue, problem after problem, and concern after concern came to me electronically or in person.

Normally, this wouldn’t bother me. Issues come with the territory in leadership. It’s part of the job. But this day I wasn’t psychologically prepared. My attitude slowly started to tank and my energy level began to droop. My vision of a catch-up day became more of a dream and less of a reality with each passing minute.

At lunch, I left the office to clear my head and adjust my attitude. My cranky approach wasn’t going to do anyone any good. That’s when it hit me… Continue reading “Never-ending Issues? One Approach Designed to Keep You Moving Forward”