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Overcoming Obstacles

An interesting bias I see in the leadership world, especially with inexperienced leaders, is seeing obstacles as purely a bad thing. These front-line supervisors, assistant managers, and young, first-time team managers tend to immediately move into panic mode when they encounter the inevitable struggles that we all face from time to time. They try to immediately jump in to fix things without any basis of information or experience to draw upon to overcome the situation. Then, as a result, their efforts prove unsuccessful or even cause a bigger problem, which of course they try to immediately jump in and fix, and the whole cycle repeats itself. These knee-jerk reactions stem from that bias. They start out by seeing the obstacle as a bad thing that they must instantly remedy, for fear that their own boss or team will see them as a failure.

The reality is that obstacles are opportunities for personal, professional, and organizational growth. They are also opportunities to prove yourself as a leader, and the best way to approach them is to be thoughtful, strategic, and intellectually inspirational to those you lead. You can’t do this effectively if you are operating in that knee-jerk manner. Overcoming obstacles takes careful analysis which, in most situations, takes a bit of time to do properly. Most people need to slow their decision-making process down a bit to look at things objectively with minimal emotional impact. Being intellectual and strategic when facing an obstacle will most certainly create a far better response, building confidence in your leadership from those around you, especially your boss.

We always recommend leveraging your expertise with Gapology in this process. Gapology provides you with a clear, systematic approach to identify and close Performance Gaps, and those gaps typically are at the root of any obstacle you’ll encounter. The Gapology Root Solutions are the tools to close those gaps. The most important thing to note here is that leaders must always start by looking in the mirror. Look to your own behaviors first, as most Performance Gaps are created right there.

Listed below are some ways to leverage Gapology to tackle any obstacle:

Close your own Knowledge Gaps first

  • What is creating the obstacle? Ask questions of your team and listen to them. Often the answer lies with them. Don’t lay blame, simply remain open to seeking out the gap, even if it is your own.

  • What skills or knowledge are you missing to overcome it?

  • Who can help you or mentor you with obtaining the skills or knowledge?

  • Then…follow these same steps for your team, if applicable.

Close your own Importance Gaps next

  • Seek out the “Why’s”. Why did this obstacle occur? Why is it important to close it?

  • Determine the behavioral expectations you need to set for yourself that will overcome the obstacle.

  • Communicate those expectations. Put them in writing and share them with a mentor that can help you.

  • Build a list of priorities around the steps you will need to take. Narrow things down to create simplicity and then start with the most impactful ones to create momentum.

  • Then…follow these same steps for your team, if applicable.

Close your own Action Gaps next

  • Get to work. Start building momentum through action.

  • Build self-accountability by establishing a scorecard/tracker with timeframes and guideposts to meet and celebrate, or course correct, if necessary.

  • Leverage your mentor to help guide you and keep you committed.

  • Establish a blame-free culture. Blame creates fear, which ruins trust. Be future-focused.

  • Then…follow these same steps for your team, if applicable.

As indicated, always start with your own Performance Gaps before looking at the team’s gaps. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have any, in fact, they probably do, but you can’t begin to close theirs with your own gaps remaining wide open. The key to all of this is to begin to embrace obstacles as opportunities for growth, whether for your organization, your team, or yourself.


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