So many leaders exist with a cloud of challenges that seemingly are always around them.
Time management, difficult conversations, fear of failing others, adopting change, coaching, and conflict resolution are just a few common challenges leaders face today.
If you have been leading for any length of time, you know that solving challenges helps individuals and teams perform at their best.
Still, your challenges keep piling up. Maybe you aren't a good leader, maybe it's someone else's fault, or perhaps leading in today's environment is just that complex. Most leadership challenges are complex because they don't have a single answer and are difficult or impossible to measure.
Many leadership challenges are complex because they don't have a single answer and are difficult or impossible to measure.
However, complexity isn't the only reason leaders don't solve problems. In my work coaching and training leaders, many managers don't want to solve their challenges badly enough. They give up too soon and don't persevere long enough.
Challenges are meant to be solved. Most leaders just don't want to solve them badly enough.
Understanding these critical truths about leadership challenges doesn't mean you should hope they magically solve themselves or persevere into a dead end. Instead, what's required is a more thoughtful and deliberate approach, what I call the PEPA Method.
There isn't one method that works for every complex leadership challenge. However, most leaders give up or move on without making meaningful progress because they don't have an approach to support their efforts. PEPA is an Acronym that stands for: Prioritize the Challenges, Evaluate the Options, Practice the Skills, Attack to Solutions.
Before you do anything, it's essential to prioritize the problems in front of you. A priority, by definition, is a thing that is more important than another. To make such a list, you must get focused. One of the first principles taught in our leadership workshops is:
Leaders don't often have talent problem, they have a focus problem.
Much like making a list to-do list, it's time to make your priority list. Write out all the leadership challenges you are encountering today. Then number them based on the significance towards key metrics (employee engagement, revenue, job satisfaction, stress, etc.) Once you have them listed out, next to each one, write whether you can concentrate on the problem in short order or if it needs to be procrastinated on purpose.
The challenge ranked highest on your list, and you can contrate on it, is where you will start.
There is plenty of advice and content on the internet, in books, or from coaches to evaluate and educate yourself on potential solutions. This brings me to one of my favorite quotes of all time from Carl Popper,
True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.
It's unbelievable how many leaders will encounter the same problem repeatedly and when you ask them, "do you know the cause and effect of why this is happening?" They are left quiet and clueless. Solving complex leadership challenges is not the time to be a hero. Instead, you must humble yourself by seeking help and guidance from coaches, mentors, or books.
There is no set amount of time or effort required to practice the skills necessary to start addressing the problem. However, too many leaders go into execution mode and forget that confidence is built through consistent daily repetition.
For example, if the skill required to address the problem is courageous conversations, practice the conversation repeatedly before having it. If the skill required is strategic thinking, put yourself in a safe environment to apply strategic thinking principles at home or on a smaller project to refine your skills.
Once you practice the skills through consistent daily repetition, the time has come to shoot. My mentor always tells me, "Shooters shoot." Attack that one particular challenge that was highest on your priority list with an intensity and focus that would make your former self jealous.
Take intentional steps daily towards a solution that benefits all parties involved. As a leader, the gifts and skills you develop are meant for someone else. During his keynote at the Catalyst for Growth Summit, Alex Judd said, "Your strengths are not for you. They are for serving others."
Your strengths are not for you. They are for serving others.
Not only is Alex correct, but it's also a powerful reminder that as you approach a solution, do it with a heart to elevate others around you.
I don't know the cloud of leadership challenges around you today. However, leveraging the PEPA method will dramatically improve your odds of overcoming them successfully.
Let's get to work.
John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College.