Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

Come with a solution to the problem, or not at all…

How many times have you heard that to appear “collaborative” and a “team player” you can’t just come to your manager or team with a problem, you need to bring the solution as well?

I’m going to challenge this one.

There’s a saying in comedy improv that I think is very appropriate here: “Bring a brick, not a cathedral”.

Yes, its lovely to have the solution to a problem as soon as it is presented, but not if it means that the problem has been festering for a week, as all the while someone scared of reprimand loses sleep over trying to figure out how on earth to get out of this one, all by themselves.

But let’s look at this from a different perspective – one without a problem and a solution, but rather with a challenge and an opportunity.

A little bit of “unconventional wisdom” that we are posed with at my coaching school[1] is that “life offers neither problems nor challenges, only opportunities”. When you’re going through one of life’s “challenges” this can certainly seem a little trite! It’s difficult to gain perspective when you’re right in the thick of it and your job is on the line.

But, think of a time in your past when you’ve had a challenge before you at work, one that seemed absolutely insurmountable, like the world was going to end if you couldn’t get this sorted right now…. And you successfully navigated it.

Whether the end result was “positive” or “negative”, what did you learn from this challenge? What were your key takeaways? Did it set you on a new career path? Did it gain you recognition from upper management? Did it put you in the path of an amazing new client or colleague? Did it make you realise what your intrinsic values really are? Did it make you realise that this is all rubbish and you’d be happier living by the beach making surfboards?

Every moment of our lives we are at choice. Even if it can seem like we are not, there is always a choice. How we choose to perceive challenges can make all the difference. Seeing something as an obstacle can be a disempowering judgement.

Instead, ask yourself: What is the opportunity here? Will this still seem so earth-shattering tomorrow? A week from now? A year from now? Five years from now?

We can certainly grow from challenges, no matter how painful they are in the moment, and often they can bring out the best in people, and push them further than they ever thought possible. A sense of solidarity can form when a team comes together and overcomes what is seen as a challenge, helping them move out of their comfort zone, and attain new heights…together.  

Perspective is a wonderful thing, and all experiences are opportunities for growth (another nugget from my coaching school!).

So as a leader, encourage people to feel safe to come forward with issues, and try to reframe these into opportunities – you never know where they will take you next!

[1] iPEC (Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching)

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