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A problem is only a problem when it’s a problem

A Problem Is Only A Problem When It’s A Problem &Raquo; 1Zlwwwhbf1S5Zlnhuvvfv9G
I know how to capture a good picture 😜

Last weekend I decided to go visit some friends in Oxford (which is about 2 hours away from where I live).

Invariably I was running late so, in my endeavours to make it there on time, I may have driven a little more “assertively” than normal.

This meant picking my speed up a little, being ready to go as soon as the traffic lights changed and being more confident with other drivers (an alternative spin on this might be that: I was driving over the speed limit, driving through yellow lights and changing lanes more frequently than necessary).

The net result was that, I may have made up some of the time but, on the way, I got flashed by a camera twice; once as I accidentally drove in a bus lane and second time, when I may have been going at 78 mph on the motorway.

A younger me might have spent the whole week worrying about these two separate incidents and the potential consequences when it comes to fines and my licence, but I have long ago learned to live life by the mantra: “A problem is only a problem when it’s a problem.”

What do I mean by that?

In the example above, I may very well receive tickets/fines/points in the upcoming weeks for both these offences and if so I will deal with them but until then there is no point worrying about them.

In my experience, I’ve been flashed before by cameras and no ticket has arrived so all the worry around it in the meantime has been for nought.

There is nothing that my worry in the interim will do to change the resulting outcomes (whether good nor bad). Instead my efforts are best served making sure that similar incidents don’t happen in the future [and I should point out that my behaviour when it came to driving last week is not a model to copy]

Do I apply this mantra to business?

I most certainly do, both for myself and when I am working with leaders and teams.

I have too often seen individuals and teams lose focus to worrying about incidents that are no longer in their control. They spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about it, thinking about it and generally imagining the worst each time.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for worry. In fact, I like to unleash the pessimists in a team for an activity known as a pre-mortem; this is where you imagine a project, strategy or idea has failed and come up with all the potential reasons why so that you can proactively plan mitigations to the ones that are most likely to happen.

However, in most cases, worry is counter-productive, causing massive impact to FQ and it is good to help teams change their own internal narratives about it as much as they can.

The urgent email exercise

With this very objective in mind, I often use an exercise called the urgent email (which is similar to the story I shared last year around Blue Monday).

In the exercise, I get individuals to imagine that they have been working all night on a very important report for the board of their company. The next morning (sleep deprived), they rush into the office and once there, they discover that they have received an email from their boss entitled “Urgent, please call me immediately”.

I stop the scenario there and ask everyone to write down what thoughts and feelings are going through their heads, how their bodies are likely reacting and what actions they are likely to take based on the email.

The point of the exercise is to highlight that we don’t actually know what the email is about (it could be good news after all) but every time I run this, almost 90% of participants imagine the worst. This has a massive impact on their current and future effectiveness.

How can you change the narrative in your head?

Being aware that worrying about something is impacting your effectiveness and actually doing something about it are quite different things.

The latter is much harder to achieve and is linked to mindset and self-control.

I often advocate using techniques that you know can calm you down or even increase your positivity.

For me, this can include ways that distract me from what I’m dwelling on, e.g.:

  • spending time with family and friends
  • singing to myself/telling myself little jokes
  • treating myself to something (e.g. a snack, a tv show, etc.)
  • undertaking exercise
  • changing my dynamic (i.e. getting up, changing my location, etc.)

and also techniques that help reframe the situation, e.g.:

  • coming up with at least 10 ways that this news could be good news
  • recalling similar times when things haven’t been that bad
  • talking to someone else who has experienced something similar (another key reason why I do a lot of networking and built my own networking group called the Solopreneurs Club)

There are also other techniques that I deploy when things do go bad that include failure anniversaries and deciding whether something is so bad that I need to unleash my “genie from its bottle” [to understand these a bit more have a listen to my explanation on a excellent, recent podcast I was on].

Last week was a perfect time for the mantra and my techniques

As luck (or perhaps misfortune is more apt) would have it, last week brought a key opportunity for me to apply my own medicine.

On Friday morning I had a call with one of Shiageto’s most important clients — a call that had been postponed for a good 6 weeks but had been put in at the start of the week to discuss something “important”.

As soon as I jumped on the Teams call, I could see something was up and my client clearly had bad news. In a way, it was interesting that I hadn’t dwelled on it all week and it touching that we avoided talking about it but eventually I asked “What was the news?”

They informed me that, because of spending freezes, they couldn’t renew Shiageto’s contract at the moment no matter how much they wanted to.

Instantly I realised that my mind could go to a dark place: This was a key contract for my business and without it, the year would certainly be trickier.

However, I stayed calm; the year hadn’t actually panned out and there was plenty to play for. I even found myself consoling the client, saying: “Don’t worry! This doesn’t mean we won’t get to work together; let’s chat every month and discuss other ways Shiageto can support. Who knows, perhaps the spending freeze will pass soon enough”.

Whilst I remained calm, I still felt not in the greatest place so I was very glad when a friend rang later that afternoon and took me out to play golf.

Those techniques did just the trick and come the evening I could smile to myself 🙂

Sure, not having a contract renewed was never great but that in itself wasn’t a problem (in fact, knowing the information gives the opportunity for other work to fill the gap, as well as less headaches and clarity).

So, I now feel so much better and am so glad that I continue to deal with a problem only when it becomes a problem.

Considering that I have a range of potential issues bubbling on the horizon (from other unsigned contracts to a legal dispute to a landlady who hasn’t responded to any messages in 2 months and so much more).

Life is certainly never dull. Roll on another exciting week!

Faris is the CEO and Founder of Shiageto Consulting, an innovative consultancy that helps firms and individuals sharpen their effectiveness.

Success = IQ x EQ x FQ

A Problem Is Only A Problem When It’s A Problem &Raquo; Stateventpost 3

Originally Published on

Faris Aranki Strategy & Emotional Intelligence

Having spent over 20 years delivering strategic change for the corporate and non-corporate worlds, Faris has experienced first-hand the fine differences between strategic success and failure.
His work has spanned numerous companies (from global behemoths to small start-ups), in numerous countries, across a range of sectors, supporting them all to unlock strategic success.

He came to realize that often what hinders institutions from achieving their goals goes beyond the quality of their strategy; it is their ability to engage effectively with others at all levels and remove barriers in their way. This has led to his passion for improving strategic effectiveness within all businesses and individuals and the foundation of Shiageto Consulting.

Over time, Faris has worked to distill his knowledge of how to solve complex problems in a structured manner combined with his skill on engaging effectively with others and his ability to quickly determine the barriers to a strategy's success. This knowledge has formed the foundation of Shiageto’s workshops, courses and methodologies. Faris believes that any firm or team can adopt these improvements; all it requires is a little of the right support -something Shiageto provides!

On top of leading our business, Faris is now an accomplished speaker and contributor for a variety of outlets.

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