As we are now in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses are forced to deal with the brunt of the negative economic impact, market desaturation, and consequential instability that arises as a result. The opportunities have never been more apparent.
Inevitably, the businesses and organizations that arise to become a stronger force than ever before will be masters at transforming problems and issues into opportunities for growth and success.
After all, opportunities are inarguably abundant in times of difficulty and stress. You can’t get stronger without tearing some muscle.
Today, I wish to provide the overarching framework for transforming difficulties in life and in business into useful opportunities. This framework is all-inclusive and will describe the entire process of transformation beginning with the most important piece of the puzzle: Your mindset.
Let me lay out the structure of this article to give you a great idea of what we will cover.
Turning Problems Into Opportunities:
1. Prepare your Mindset
2. Define the Issue
3. Imagine Your “Optimal Future”
4. Manage the Differences
Now let’s dive into step 1 on the list!
Prepare Your Mindset
Nothing, and I do mean nothing, can be accomplished without first putting yourself into the proper mindset. There is a reason why many of the best actors in the world take such immense, and often even dangerous, efforts to place themselves in the mindset to best perform the role.
Now, I’m not saying you need to do something dangerous or eccentric, far from it, but what I am saying is that the best performers in life and business are those who have found ways to think in different patterns. More specifically, those who decide to think optimally instead of negatively.
Would any person take action to resolve an issue if they didn’t truly believe that opportunity lies in wait? I don’t think so. Especially not if you place yourself in a victimhood mentality, in which you throw away all personal power you have to change.
Preparing your mindset is about deconstructing the “traditional” and “common” perspectives in order to reveal something much more powerful beneath the surface. That power is your belief in yourself and in the benefits that arise from times of struggle.
The everyday person will likely make themselves a victim in times of difficulty, you need to avoid this at all costs. It is a debilitating and useless place to put your mindset solely because it is devoid of personal accountability.
To be able to make the best of the problems around you, you first need to see them as the opportunities that they are. This can be difficult to accomplish, no doubt about it, however, you can develop this mindset as a habit and use it to skyrocket your success and attitude.
Here are some tips you can use to begin shifting your mindset consciously before it becomes a subconscious habit.
Alter Your Focus
We often perceive things as more abundant when we focus on them. When you go new car shopping, you will likely notice that new car everywhere you go! That is not because they weren’t there before, but it is because that car now resides as part of your focus.
Problems and opportunities are the same way. When we focus on the problems, especially ones that are immediately prevalent to us, we tend to blow them out of proportion and consider them insurmountable.
However, when we focus on the opportunities that those problems represent, we can begin to take action based on motivations as opposed to fears.
For example, take a penny and throw it as far as you can. That penny will likely be lost in your field of vision. However, take that same penny and hold it close to your eye, that penny will now consume half of your field of vision, despite the fact that the penny remains the same size.
This is the power of choosing your focus, choose to see the problems for the opportunities that lie beneath, and you will develop the habit of seeing those opportunities naturally! But, choose to see the problems, and that’s all you will think about.
Learn to Self-Identify Mental Blocks
When it comes to success, negative habits are what stops you. Learning to identify your own mental blocks when making decisions or thinking about problems is the most powerful thing you can do to resolve them. This is because you can choose to recognize these subconscious reactions for what they are, and choose your own conscious reaction instead.
After all, being aware that an issue exists is half the battle. Without attempting to be aware of your own mental blocks for success, you have no hope of changing for the better.
The best way to do this is to block out some time to become consciously cynical of the way you think. Only when you can directly work through the reasoning and emotions you employ as habits can you begin to change them with some conscious reasoning.
When you think something negative, simply ask yourself, “Is this negativity going to help or hinder me in dealing with the situation?” Take action upon your answer. I often find that the answer is “NO.”
Define the Issue
Now that we have learned how to place ourselves in the proper actionable mindset, let’s discuss the next important step for resolving issues in the most optimal way.
Step 2 is, simply, Define The Issue. Defining the issue is very important because without taking a moment to consider your immediate situation, you can’t possible begin to change in the best way possible.
For example, imagine you are lost, you have a map but don’t know where you currently are. Maps are useless unless you have your bearings, that’s because any direction you choose can take you further away from where you actually want to be.
Therefore, it is paramount to consider the nature of the issue or problem that you are facing this moment before you can move onto the next few steps.
Here are some common ways to define and diagnose problems to ensure that you are not wasting time and money to resolve symptoms of a larger issue.
Identify Internal/External Issues
Internal and external issues will differ depending on the environment in which you define them. For example, when we are talking about your personal environment, internal issues are issues that you have within your own mindset, and external issues are issues that others are implementing onto you.
It is philosophically argued that, despite the severity of external issues, the true issues are always internal. That is to say, the way you think and perceive them.
However, in a business environment, we can define the internal and external spectrum differently. Internal issues are company-based, meaning that you have complete control over the cause of the issue and can resolve it as necessary.
External issues are environmentally-based. Meaning that these issues arise from the operating environment in which your organization does business. For example, politics, market preferences, competition, etc.
The difference is in how you choose to respond to these issues. Occasionally, the causes of external issues may not be directly actionable or alterable by you or your organization. However, you can always adapt to them.
Internal issues, and the causes thereof, are completely controllable. All you have to do is identify and resolve them optimally.
This consideration is important to business success as well as your ability to transform problems into opportunities because you can define and place your focus on things that you can control. This is, inarguably, more effective and motivating than focusing on those things you can NOT control.
Defining the issue is about clarifying your role in the issue’s cause, and whether you have the direct ability to alter or optimize the opportunities that lie in wait. Adapt, if not.
Imagine Your “Optimal Future”
Now, before you can begin to define the optimal future for your organization, you must define where you are in order to “get your bearings.” But, seeing as that was done in this last step, you can begin to now envision what the optimal future state of your organization looks like.
In terms of the map analogy, Defining your issue (in step 2) is similar to utilizing a compass. The map (future vision) will show you where you want to go, and the compass will show you where you are. Both are necessary for optimally transforming your organization to uncover opportunities from problems.
Defining the organization’s “optimal future” is about clarifying the direction and culture of the organization. Both of which are the roles of executive leadership and the board of directors.
By deciding upon the vision of the organization, you can begin to transform its current dilemmas into future opportunities. This is because you recognize the way you want your organization to look and operate in the future, and can prepare for that future by optimally mending the broken systems and processes in the present.
After all, issues are merely doors for opportunity. When things are broken, you can fix them to become stronger or more in line with the future state of your organization.
Consider this, let’s say that your business ERP systems are out of operation and need repairing. This is causing an internally controlled issue in which you have complete control over its resolution. Are you going to repair them to the state they were before or are you going to optimize them for the future while you can?
This is why it is so important to solidify your vision of the future state of the organization. without doing so, you may not be able to make the best use of the problems that arise in the present.
Manage The Differences
The differences between step 2 and step 3 are where the opportunity lies. Inherently, opportunity is your ability to take something and make it work for you. Therefore, defining the differences between where you are (problem) and where you want to be (future vision) is where you can define which opportunities lie in wait.
The questions then becomes, how can you break down those opportunities into actionable and controllable steps? Do this properly, and you should have no problem with transforming your organization.
For example, let’s say I define my current issue (step 2) as decreased profit margins by 10%. Let’s also say that I define my organization’s vision (future vision) as profit margins that have increased %20 in the next few years.
Therefore, my opportunity regards my ability to optimize profit margins above and beyond what they were before. After all, if it’s already broken, might as well make the best and most efficient use of it.
I can then get to work on things I can control, and which may relate to my profit margins. Cost, revenues, etc. will be my focus, and are the variables that I have control over.
This is often the way consultants think about things. And it is beneficial to logically breaking down issues for what they are, opportunities in disguise.
What are the differences between your current situation, and your “vision?” And how are you going to break down those differences into actionable and achievable steps? This is what consulting is all about, but now you have the mindset to make it work for you!
Ultimately, making the best out of issues and problems that arise in business is no easy feat, but the most important thing you can do is develop the mindset to view issues as opportunities and go about them positively.
It is often the way we define and measure these issues that present to us the opportunities therein. Therefore, managing the differences between your organization now and the future is about changing what you can, and adapting to what you can’t. This is why clearly recognizing these things is so important.
Don’t waste your precious time or resources attempting to change what you can’t control, or by attempting to resolve symptoms to underlying issues.
If you need help clarifying or defining your abilities to change and the opportunities of change, don’t be afraid to schedule a call with me! I’d love to help any way I can!
Thanks for reading!
Work With Austin
-Austin Denison is a management consultant and coach from Southern California and founder/CEO of Denison Success Systems LLC. He is the author of The Essential Change Management Guidebook: Master The Art of Organizational Change as well as The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life.