Episode 129: Problem Awareness

The Art of Problem Awareness

Are you the type of leader that waits for problems to arise in their business before addressing them?

Have you ever thought about how much money that’s costing you, by waiting for those problems to become obvious?

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to find the problems early and get to the root of them, by expanding your problem awareness.

The quicker you can detect a problem, the faster you can solve the problem.


In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • 4 places to proactively look for sources of problems in your business (hint – most business owners stop after the first 2)
  • The impact of waiting to find and solve problems in your business
  • How to coach yourself and your team through problems

Hey, everybody, if you and your business I know there is no shortage of problems to deal with. And unfortunately, the bigger your business gets, the more problems you will likely face. Many of my clients come to me hoping that one day, things will get easy that all of their problems will be solved. And they'll finally get to sit back and relax. Sometimes they even think that I'll be able to help them prevent all of their problems. And believe me, I would if I could, but I'm not here because I can prevent all of their problems. I'm here to support them when the inevitable problems arise, and I help them spot problems early. After working with hundreds of business owners, I've seen all kinds of problems come up. And now I can spot them from a mile away. My goal is to not only help entrepreneurs handle the problems they bring to me to not only find and make them aware of the problems that they don't yet see, but to also teach them how to detect problems early. As a leader, you want to find problems in your business as early as possible. So they can be solved as early as possible. But most leaders are reactive, and wait until a problem is painfully obvious before handling it. Instead, I'm going to show you four places you can proactively look for the source of problems in your business, the first place to find problems is in your results. Now, this is one of the most common places that entrepreneurs look. So you may already be looking here, but I've still got a few things to share. Are you getting your desired results? If not, it's obvious there's a problem. Right? But not until you have an undesired result, might you be looking or realized that there is a problem and get to work? Today, I'm going to give you a few places that you can look for problems well before you see it in your results. But first, I know some business owners struggle to identify problems, even with their results. And that's for a few reasons. First, they're not clear on the result that they actually want. They haven't defined their goals, or they're unclear on their vision. So they can't tell when they're off track. I've had entrepreneurs say to me something along the lines of I'm off track or I'm failing, or it's not working well enough. And then when I asked them how they'll know when they're successful, they don't know, because they haven't defined success. Some struggle to identify problems with their results, because they're not actually measuring results or using data to make decisions. They're going with their gut feelings about how things are working, instead of using data to identify what's working and what's not working. I've had business owners who have told me this strategy isn't working. But when we dig into the data, we find out that it actually is and their gut was wrong, or vice versa. And they believe something is working, and they want to keep doing it. But the data says otherwise. A third reason that sometimes business owners struggle to identify problems with their results is because even if they are measuring results, they don't understand the relationship between different metrics, or they don't know which ones are leading versus lagging indicators. So they wait until the very end. And they're disappointed with the results when they could have looked at the data and made adjustments earlier. So what I mean by that is you can have certain metrics that are lagging indicators. And that's the later indicator of a result, like the number of sales. And then there are leading indicators that let you know if you're on the right track, and if your results for the lagging indicator are going to be what you would want them to be. So for example, the number of calls booked might be an indicator of the number of sales that you'll generate if you use sales calls to generate sales. Or it could be the number of leads or something else earlier in the process. So you need to understand not just the final result that you want, but the results along the way, that lead to that final result, okay. Now, the second place outside of results, that you can go look for problems and your business is in actions especially as a leader. You want to be taking a look at the actions that both you and your team are not taking, or you and your team taking the right actions to get your desired results. I want you to think of results as the outcomes and actions as the inputs. Some entrepreneurs aren't taking consistent action to move closer to their goals. So no input, no desired outcome. Others are taking action, but either don't have a clear strategy to drive the results. So they're doing all the things taking all the action, but it's just not aligned action. And they're spending lots of time on the wrong things. And this is where most entrepreneurs stop. Okay, they look at their results to find problems, they look at their actions to see, is my team doing what they should be? Am I taking consistent action? And maybe they even go so far as to say, am I taking the right action, but most don't go any further. They think that all of their problems are with their results and their actions. But especially as a leader, I want to give you two more places that you can go. I think that great leaders go deeper. They look at what drives action, or inaction. And that's feelings. So the question for you here is how do you and your team feel, each and every day? Does that feeling inspire the action needed to get your desired results? If feelings drive actions, and they do, then imagine how you and your team's actions change, depending on whether you feel calm, competent, motivated, excited, curious, valued, versus if you feel stressed, overwhelmed, hopeless, dread, fear, unworthy, disrespected. And of course, there's so many other emotions. But the actions you take change, right? If you feel confident, versus hopeless, the way you go about your work is going to be different, and the specific actions you take will be different. But honestly, even if they're the exact same actions, if those actions are being driven by fear, you're gonna get a different result. Right, then if you take that very same action from a place of confidence, so many leaders avoid talking about feelings or discourage others from sharing real feelings. And instead, I think are choosing an illusion that everything is fine. If you can create a safe environment where people can share their true feelings, you'll become more aware of problems well before they impact actions. And if you take the time to understand how you feel each day, then you will head off problems before they ever make their way into your actions and results. So I want you to think, what are the primary feelings that you feel day to day in your business, the goal isn't to get rid of all the feelings or to get rid of the ones that you deem as negative, but it's to just take a look at what their primary feelings are. And to know that if most of the time you're feeling stressed, overwhelmed, afraid, or whatever else frustrated with your team, it could be a number of things, then it's time to take a look at your feelings. conversations about feelings I know can be uncomfortable, but instead of avoiding them, I want you to embrace them. And I want you to know that you will be a step ahead if you do. But there's one more step you can take to be even further ahead. And that is to go look for problems with your thoughts. What are you and your team thinking? Do your thoughts lead to the feelings that inspire the actions needed to get your desired results? Great leaders don't hear a comment or a concern from a team member and overlook or to dismiss it, they address it because they know that thoughts create results. Great leaders make time to reflect on their own thoughts and to talk to their team to understand what they are thinking. And by doing so they find and solve problems way earlier.

Let's look at an example here. This is not a true story. But it's one that has bits and pieces of real stories from all of my clients kind of merged into one as an example for you. So let's say you just met with your team, and you gave him direction for a big project coming up. Before you wrapped up the call. Maybe you asked them if they have any questions or concerns. And let's say a team member named Susie says this is going to be hard. I don't know how we're gonna get it all done. This is anindication of a potential problem. And you have an opportunity to coach her on your thoughts, right then in there. But let's play this out and assume that you don't take that opportunity. And instead, you say, I'm sure you can figure it out. And you just wrap up the meeting, Susie leaves the meeting, feeling overwhelmed, she even sends you a message to tell you how she's feeling. And again, you have the opportunity to coach her. But instead, you roll your eyes to yourself, as you read her message, because you think to yourself, it's really not that difficult. And you send back a reply that says, just do XYZ and you give her some steps to take. Meanwhile, she keeps focusing on how hard it's going to be, and spends her time stressing and overthinking instead of getting to work. She's totally confused. But you make it look so easy. So there's no way she's going to reach out to ask for help. Instead, she works on a project that she is confident about, a different project altogether. And your next team meeting, you ask for updates. And unfortunately, very little has been done. She tells you she's been busy working on that other project, and she'll be able to devote more time soon. Yet again, there's an indicator of a potential problem. But you don't take the opportunity to ask questions. This continues and time is getting short before the project is due. You tell her, this is her top priority. And she has no excuses to put the project off any longer. But it still feels harder. Because on top of the initial overwhelm, there's now a short timeline, and she has to rush. It was all self imposed by her to wait. But this is the result of her initial thoughts, right? She barely gets it done on time. But then the quality isn't great. And the results suffer. You finally recognize there's a problem but incorrectly assume maybe perhaps that this strategy was the wrong strategy. And so you pivot to try something new. You might give her feedback, tell her to not wait so long, or you might accept her excuses, that she was busy and had a lot to do. Either way, you don't get the result that you want. And you had several opportunities to try to address it. So what if instead, this is how it went? When Suzy said, this is going to be hard. I don't know how we'll get it all done. You sat down and you coached her on her thoughts. You ask her questions about other projects that seemed hard at first, but ended successfully and you help her realize that it may not be exactly the same. But she does have the skills needed to figure it out. She leaves the conversation thinking I can do this and she's feeling confident. She starts taking action right away, breaks down the project into smaller milestones, and maps out a project plan of deadlines. Each week. She focuses on the priority for that week and moves the needle forward. You continue checking in with her and coaching her on her actions, her feelings and her thoughts. And the project wraps up on time, gives you exactly the results that you want or close because team members aren't perfect. And not every time will it be exactly what you wanted, but it's much closer. And maybe she even made it look easy, and she proved that she can handle this type of work. As a leader, it's your job to find problems early and get to the root of them. Often that means spending more time managing your own thoughts and feelings and then coaching your team on theirs. If you're spending all of your time talking to your team about actions and results, and looking for problems there is costing your business so much time and money. What if you could expand your problem awareness by learning how to pick up on thought errors and notice feelings well before you ever see problems with actions or results. This is what being a high performing CEO and leading a high performing team is all about.

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