Everybody has problems. If you aren’t sure about that statement, just ask someone—most people will gladly tell you all about theirs!
When it comes to problems, I agree with Lou Holtz’s humorous perspective, “Don’t tell your problems to people! 80% don’t care and the other 20% are glad you have them.”
While most people don’t like problems, all great leaders share a common belief: problems are opportunities to learn and grow.
Renowned author Norman Vincent Peele said it this way: “Positive thinking is how you think about a problem. Enthusiasm is how you feel about a problem. The two together determine what you do about a problem.”
The key to overcoming problems by seeing them as opportunities is approaching them the right way. Here are four applications to help you do that:
1. Anticipate the problem.
You’ve probably heard it said that the punch that knocks you out usually isn’t the hardest one. The punch that knocks you out is the one you didn’t see coming.
When facing problems of any kind, it is critical to be proactive and anticipate them. You won’t be able to see every problem before it arrives, but the more you can anticipate what is coming, the quicker you will be able to learn from it.
2. Communicate the problem.
The former chairman of Volkswagen Bernd Pischetsrieder said, “The principal conflicts I have experienced have always had one simple cause: miscommunication.” I have observed Bernd’s statement to be true for most teams. Communication is a constant battle!
It takes work to maintain effective communication with your team. Unfortunately, when communication is poor, not only does it prevent you from solving problems, it will also create problems. When you communicate problems well, your team is able to respond to them as opportunities.
3. Evaluate the problem.
Pick your battles! Adjusting to the size and weight of a problem is important. For example—if someone wants to argue that Lebron James is a better basketball player than Michael Jordan, this is not a problem worth fighting over. But if someone is about to drink poison, this is a big problem and should be addressed immediately!
John Maxwell placed a laminated card on his desk for many years with this question printed in bold letters: “Does it REALLY MATTER?” This helped him maintain healthy balance when facing problems of all kinds. I encourage you to create reminders like this in your own life as well to help you evaluate the size of problems.
4. Appreciate the problem.
Show me a leader that hasn’t learned this lesson and I will show you a leader that is not growing. Leaders will struggle to reach their potential as long as they are avoiding problems.
Look at an eagle for example: Turbulent wind, which could be viewed as a problem, actually helps the eagle fly faster. A normal flying speed for an eagle is around 50 miles per hour. But when gliding in turbulent wind currents, speeds more than double!
A problem isn’t really a problem unless you allow it to be. Problems are really just opportunities.
I’ll leave you with the words of John Maxwell, “If you and I want to gain the full benefit from every problem, challenge, and loss, we need to stop looking for the back door, and face the difficulty with the determination to gain something from it. Do that, and you can become a hero in your life.”