6 Reasons Why Great Leaders Love Problems— and So Should You

Gestalt Theory hypothesizes that none of us sees reality as it is. Instead, we’re going to bend what we see to our own patterns and internal messages. 

So our inner thoughts and presets uniquely determine how we experience the world… but let me go out on a limb to make a claim. 

In all of our reality experiences, we share a common internal message—

AVOID PROBLEMS. 

It’s in our nature, in our nurture, to wake up each morning believing: 

Problem? Bad. Stress. No. 

No Problem? Rest. Relief. Utopia. 

But after years of learning what makes great leaders—and training men and women to become the great leaders they were meant to be—I’ve discovered that our problems are our secret sauce to success. 

In fact, a life without problems is a life without growth. 

Here are six ways that choosing a problem-solving mindset changes you for the better—into the leader you were meant to be.  

Problems Reveal Your Character. 

Everyone, at some point, experiences a degree of personal or organizational failure. 

Each problematic moment is an x-ray of character. Everyone involved will respond according to their emotional, mental, and occupational maturity.

 

  • Do you lean towards wallowing in failure? 
  • Are you more prone to shutdown or lack of listening? 
  • Are you an encourager or a critique-er? 
  • Are you quick to see multiple solutions? 
  • Do you take responsibility or pass the buck? 

 

Great leaders are not in denial, believing nothing bad will ever happen, but neither do they camp out in failure.

Imagine a sponge: You only find out what’s on the inside, when it gets squeezed. You only know someone’s internal makeup (or your own) when they confront adversity. 

Where you or I respond poorly, mark it, remember it—and focus on growing that area. 

Problems Lead to Your Answers

Influence Leadership exists as a service-based business, because people have problems—problems around conflict and problems in execution. 

Of course, from a business perspective, “problems aren’t problems; problems are money.” If you solve the problems, you get the money. 

The people who rise highest in organizations are more solution-focused than problem-focused. They’re worth higher salaries. Why? Because they’re effective at tackling bigger problems. 

They see adversity as a window to competitive advantage.

In business, we figure out future answers from our present problems. 

(Otherwise, the pain was experienced for nothing.)

To reach the top, we accept obstacles, learn whatever we can, adjust strategy, and press on. 

Problems Increase Your Capacity. 

The higher the barrier to entry and more difficult the business, the greater the opportunity is for us to succeed.

Why? Because our competition will likely fold. In any case, adversity builds a critical leadership component, which is capacity. 

For example, I’ve got a friend that’s a runner. Though I’m not a runner, I’m told if you run a 5k and can get through that, then you pursue a 10k and get through that. You continue to increase your capacity and go on to run half and full marathons. 

As you persevere and press through the pain towards a goal, it builds confidence and credibility. 

If you quit too soon, you experience the pain, but never reap the benefits of having weathered it.

Problems Hone Your Process: 

When I coach people through those tough learnings, I address two aspects of it. When you succeed, I want you to own that success. I want you to internalize it: 

You’re the woman! You’re the man! You’re the rock star!

Own every bit of that. But when you fail, I want you to filter it as a system or process.

Internalize success and externalize failure.

When we externalize failure instead of internalizing it, we recognize that success is a process that must be worked to yield the right results. Success is the culmination of proper steps done over time. 

The only way to reveal the right steps is to learn from a past of problems. 

When we fail, we need to go back and do the diagnostics and identify lessons learned. I call them the “after action autopsies.” 

It’s time to cut the body open and see what happened. It’ll be one of two things: either you didn’t have the right system or you failed to work it. Either way, it’s a systemic failure. 

Either way, let’s learn the lessons and work an improved process.

Problems Improve Your Trust 

There are a lot of leaders that just won’t admit their shortcomings or failures. Everybody on the team knows, but the leader won’t say, “That was my fault. I should have done something different.” 

Yet vulnerability-based trust is some of the most deeply connected organizational and personal trust. 

It builds amazing health into organizations.

The temptation when you really hit that wall is to recoil and wallow in the emotional pain.

Don’t. 

Chalk it up to a University of Life experience, share your findings with your team, and set the example for open, honest improvement. 

Problems Adjust Expectations 

Frustration happens when expectations meet experience. 

If you expected to run that first 5k, 10k, or marathon pain-free, you’re going to be frustrated.

I heard someone say, “The glass is not half empty or half full. The realist knows that, regardless of what’s in the glass, it’s going to have to be washed sooner or later.” 

Welcome to life! There is no such thing as a perfect boss or a perfect company. 

Everyone that walks in the front door after being hired has an expectation of what daily life is going to be like. When expectation meets experience, you’re either going to have fulfillment or frustration. 

Eventually you’ll either have an engaged or disengaged workforce. It’s one thing if people quit and leave; it’s another thing if they quit and stay. 

Mismatched expectations and resulting disengagement cost companies millions. 

If you or your team is experiencing heightened levels of frustration, let the “problem” become an arrow—leading you to re-evaluate mismanaged expectations and, in the end, repair engagement and repair team trust. 

Problems are not the problem. 

The real obstacles are when we can’t handle the problem, can’t talk about the problem, can’t work together to solve the problem. 

When honing your ability to overcome obstacles and deal with adversity head on—here is the key thought to remember:

Everyone faces adversity: It’s not what happens to you; it’s what happens in you.

Few of us have control over what happens to us, but we always have control over how we respond—whether we will run away or rise to the opportunity of a new problem. 

Be an owner of your circumstances by asking questions and seeking the answers. 

What can I learn in this moment of frustration? 

How can I use this particular obstacle to sharpen myself?

By embracing the opportunity of problems, you can grow character, improve trust, reveal answers, hone processes, adjust expectations, and reap higher rewards! 

Why YOU Need a Burled Arch—It’s Not What You Think

Pro tools for decreasing burnout and finishing strong 

All Iditarod mushers know the words “Burled Arch.” What sounds like a strange landmark to anyone else is excitement—and relief—to their ears. 

The Burled Arch means victory. It’s the term mushers use for the long-awaited finish line. 

The destination each team hopes to see at the end of their strenuous trek. 

The term “Destiny” comes from the same word as Destination. Destiny is not “Fate” (“Well, whatever happens to me, that’s my Destiny.”) No, Destiny is a pre-decided Destination that I am determined to reach!

With “Burled Arch Destiny” all we need is the map, the skill, and the will to get there! Maps are createable. Skill is teachable. There’s only one question left—do you have the WILL?

Finding and honing the will is easier than you think. What I would tell people is this: “Dream big and then learn the steps to get you there.”

It starts with these questions: 

  • Where are you now along this trail?
  • Why do you want this Destiny?
  • What will you need to Learn?
  • What skills will you need to develop?
  • What role will others play in helping you reach this Burled Arch?
  • What are measurable steps along the way?
  • What is the NEXT step? (And then take it!) 

If you continue to ask these questions and then take the next step, nothing can stop you from reaching your “Burled Arch Destiny.”

As you prepare for your destination, here are some “pro tips from the trail” that every leader needs if they really want to make it to the finish line. 

These mental checks help guard against frustration, burn-out, confusion—and when you’ve wandered, they put you back on the path to success. 

It Might Get Messy

No one gets it right the first time. No one reaches their potential in one day, week, or year. 

It’s not going to be perfect, but that’s okay. Because anything worth doing is worth doing UGLY! 

Ugly is real—and it leads us to continuous improvement!

Remember how bad we all were when we first started learning to play sports as little kids?  Eventually, if the will persists, the skill improves—and you make JV and then on to varsity! 

It takes talent, but as my mentor John Maxwell says, “Talent is NEVER enough!”

Every Checkpoint is a Victory. 

After each Next Step, celebrate small victories like crazy!

Celebrate any progress—yes, any—toward your Burled Arch Destiny. If you learn a new skill, take a new class, spend 30 minutes in dreaming and mapping, whatever it is, mark it down and celebrate the wins!  

This is the fuel needed to keep it up! Why keep running if you think you’re not going anywhere?  

Mark your progress, even the small steps, and celebrate!

Find the Right Belief 

What the roots drink, the fruits think! Our beliefs as leaders, as team members, and as people have a lot of power over what we actually accomplish. 

Before 1957, some athletes believed that a sub-4 minute mile was impossible. They kept trying, but after so many failures, it was easier to chalk the record up to fantasy—a goal potentially just too strenuous for the human body. 

Then came Roger Bannister. He started his running career at 17 with an already impressive 4:24 mile/minute pace. Eight years into his career, still no one else had broken the 4-minute mile. 

But on May 6, 1954, during an Oxford meet and winds of up to twenty-five mph—that just happened to die down right before his race—Roger Bannister completed the mile in a crowd-rousing 3 minutes and 59.6 seconds.  

What’s more astounding?

He held the record for only three weeks. 

And within three years of Roger’s ground-breaking physical feat, 16 other runners also cracked it. 

Once they could visualize the path to victory, it seemed like anyone could achieve the “impossible.” 

Check yourself: where could beliefs be limiting you and where are they advancing you?

Partner up with Inspiring Individuals

Lastly, make sure to find an encouraging friend, accountability partner, or coach. When you start to doubt (which we all do!), when you want to quit, you’ll need them to cheer you on!

Fight the self-defeating voices with everything you have! Saturate yourself in can-do positivity!  Find a voice, someone that lifts you up, and listen to their positive beliefs. 

I listen (almost daily) to speakers that are highly positive and motivational. Why? Because I need it too!

Read, listen, watch anything you can to make sure your tank stays full of the belief in possibilities!

Keep dreaming. Keep moving. Keep growing. Keep doing! 

The Burled Arch is ahead. 

Do These 4 Things to Establish a Winner’s Mindset

You may have heard that no one can affect your thoughts on a situation or event…unless you let them. 

But that’s only empowering so far as you know how to secure a positive mindset, one that sees clearly, evaluate honestly, and can problem solve for success. 

If a proper mindset helps separate the tenacious competitors from the casual competitors, how do we plot the right path to victory?

Here are 4 mental disciplines to practice every day that will keep you focused and moving forward with a Winner’s Mindset. 

1. Check Your Pack

If a dog on the Iditarod trail is getting sick, tired, or injured, the musher has to catch the problem early or risk losing the dog—as well as the race. 

It might look tough to push through. 

It might look tenacious to pass the rest-stop. 

But they risk losing more than time if they don’t check their pack when problems arise. 

Your thoughts are like your dog pack. They pull the sled. (They can also derail it.)

 Check them early; check them consistently! 

When you are in the middle of an obstacle, pause and ask yourself “What am I thinking about this situation?” 

It may seem silly—to think about what you’re thinking about. But the purpose of the exercise is to give you momentary pause to “check your pack.” 

It will interrupt your anxieties or opinions about the situation and allow you to evaluate more clearly: Are they the right thoughts? Are they true thoughts? 

You’ll be surprised at how many misconceptions slip in to throw off your whole day. 

light-dogsled

2. Keep a Light Sled 

Keeping the sled light means I don’t over-pile it with negative self-talk—otherwise that weighty sled will start slipping down the slope. 

I have the most trouble with my mental game whenever I find myself connecting unrelated events of the past to my present mom. Faced with an obstacle or failure, I immediately start to fight thoughts tying every other failure in my life to this situation. 

If the thoughts are spiraling you into rehearsing all previous failures and short-comings—STOP THE RUN-AWAY SLED.

IF (and it’s a big if) you discover some bad patterns or choices that do connect some repetitive obstacles—then work to identify the pattern. Lighten the load by choosing an opportunity to grow instead of dooming yourself to repetition.  

Identify the pattern and work to correct that pattern. 

Your “lot in life” is not to ALWAYS be the losing sled. 

Start owning the mindset that you can win—even if you’ve never won before—there is always a first!

dogsled-trail-image

3. Evolve the Trail

If you remember, the Evolve stage is where we look at the lessons learned, understand the needed course corrections, and immediately work to implement the changes into our daily running. 

John C. Maxwell has an incredible book called Failing Forward and it one that I recommend to all leaders. 

One of the take-aways from this book is that when people fail they usually hold onto the emotional pain of the failure instead of the lesson that they could have learned.  

He goes on to counsel that we should forget the emotional hit from the failure and work to remember what the failure will teach us. 

This has led to an internal mantra for me that echoes “Learn the lesson; forget the pain.”

Of course, that’s easier said than done. And this doesn’t mean that we don’t remember the hit—we just don’t allow it to become emotional baggage that weighs us down. 

(Remember point # 2–keep the sled light!)

I am a firm believer in pain being one of the chief teachers in life. We want to avoid the pain, so we don’t do whatever action caused us the pain last time. 

It doesn’t mean we choose not to race again. 

It means we improve—we get better and we try not to make the same mistake twice.

4. The Winner’s Mindset

In order to change the outcome we have to change our actions. In order to change our actions – we have to change our thoughts and beliefs.

Identify the best and brightest and don’t be afraid to copy some of their awesome! 

Ask: What would the top competitors be thinking in this same situation? 

Consistently identifying the best practices of proven success stories can lead you to elevated thinking, action, and outcomes. 

But the first step is to take ownership of this area (your thoughts are your thoughts). Remember: a thought cannot be removed—it can only be replaced with another thought. 

Whether that thought is good or whether that thought is self-defeating is up to you.

Choose with me to “Own” the winning mindset today!

RightPath Tools: From Failing Student to World-Renowned Astronaut

The Keys to Transforming Your Leadership Today

In the inspiring book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, Scott Kelly describes his journey to become an astronaut, living for a year and a half in space and commanding both the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. 

While the book recounts many fascinating details about living in space and NASA training, I was most intrigued by a key turning point in Kelly’s life.

Kelly was a poor student in high school and during his first year of college. He spent his days in school staring out the window, watching the clock until school was dismissed and he could roam the woods and think up stunts that often landed him in the emergency room. 

Unable to focus on school work, his grades suffered. He was so distracted that he ended up applying to the wrong college. 

His freshman year of college found him at the bottom of his class, listless and directionless until two things transformed his life: Vision and Grit.

Vision Is Only the Start

He picked up a copy of The Right Stuff which describes the training and adventures of the early NASA test pilots and astronauts. Kelly was hooked. 

He instantly knew that he wanted to become a Navy test pilot and eventually an astronaut. 

Yet, as a young man with a poor academic record, low motivation and a history of coasting through life, Scott realized that his vision was not enough, he needed grit.

A key moment came during the first weekend at the Merchant Marine Academy. He called his brother and told him that he wanted to visit some friends on another campus for a party. 

His brother said, “Are you crazy? If you are going to be a Navy test pilot, you need to spend the entire weekend in your dorm room and do every problem in your textbook until you can do them all PERFECTLY.”

When he started on Friday afternoon, distractions would pop up in his mind

  • “I need to sharpen my pencil.”
  • “I should get a drink of water.” 
  • “I wonder what my friends are doing.” 

Yet he resisted these distractions by remembering his vision of becoming a Navy test pilot. After a full weekend of study, he aced his first test and started down the road that would lead him to set the U.S. record for endurance space flight.

Can You Relate? 

What is your vision? When you get to the end of the year and look back at the events of this year, what will you have learned? What new skills will you have? How will you have grown?

To accomplish your vision, how will you develop the power of grit

Let me suggest three steps:

  1. Use a tool. Objective insights from an assessment tool that measures natural, hard-wired behavior like RightPath’s Path4 and Path6 assessments provide valuable understanding of your strengths, struggles, and how to relate to others.
  2. Make a plan. Too often vision only focuses on the final result, not the process to accomplish it. Take time to write down the steps to accomplish your goal. Be specific and describe the commitment of time, energy, and money you will invest in accomplishing your goal.
  3. Get a coach. A coach can be a powerful ally and help make change last. Not only does a good coach hold you accountable, but coaches provide new insights and perspectives that can help you overcome any obstacles and roadblocks you face. Drop me a note if I can be of help.

Start by Getting on the RightPath

Over my career, these steps have been my leadership lifeline. I’ve always had a vision, but these keys to grit-development have become disciplines of success that no leader should lose. 

Without third-party insight, I’m running blind. But with the right tools, there is no limit to the places I can lead my team. 

In fact, we have been using the insight tools RightPath’s Path4 and Path6 for over a decade, which is why I’m so excited about the “joint adventure” we’ve undertaken. 

They are essential parts of my success path. 

Influence Leadership wouldn’t have achieved such high levels of performance without equipping our leaders with

  • High-level understanding of emotional intelligence
  • Detailed training for building stronger relationships
  • Enhanced communication between individuals, teams, and companies
  • Tailor-made team and leadership development solutions

With RightPath, I’ve seen myself and my people increase accuracy, maximize team relationships, and continue to grow bigger and better as a company. 

Our vision grows. Our grit increases—and the proof is in the results.

RightPath Resources and Influence Leadership Join Forces

Jerry Mabe and Chris Fuller are excited to announce that RightPath Resources and Influence Leadership are joining forces to create a combined organization, elevating service and product offerings to existing clients with the ability to provide long-term, sustainable resources and expertise to organizations of all sizes.

“Chris and his team have been passionate champions for the RightPath tools for over a decade.

I’m more confident than ever about the future of RightPath, with Chris bringing 10 years of experience with RightPath tools and over 25 years of experience in business and organizational effectiveness,” says Jerry Mabe, Founder/CEO of RightPath Resources.”

This joint “adventure” combines teams with decades of success in behavioral assessment, personal development, and organizational effectiveness consulting.

Jerry, Chris, and the team members of the combined organization will continue to serve their respective clients without any noticeable change.

“RightPath tools have been an integral part of my business for over a decade,” said Chris Fuller, Founder/CEO of Influence Leadership.

“I wanted an even deeper connection so we could more fully integrate all things RightPath into our growing suite of offerings. We knew it was going to be a great match because one of the first things we did was to study the Path4/Path6 of ourselves and the team; to identify areas of opportunities or threats to successfully integrating a high performing team.”

“Every organization that cares about its clients and its legacy must plan for succession at some point,” said Jerry Mabe.

“I wanted to be proactive and prepare for that eventual transition so our clients would continue to enjoy uninterrupted superior service. But I wasn’t willing to trust just anyone to carry on the RightPath legacy. It needed to be both a values and skillset match.”

RightPath will continue to operate as RightPath Resources and will remain at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at (877) 843-7284.