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
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.”
John Maxwell Leadership Podcast