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Best selling author and US Navy SEAL, Thom Shea discusses what life is like when you stop quitting and become the best version of yourself.


Nov 25, 2019

Solving the big problems.

Moving into the week where we celebrate Thanks Giving, or Harvest or changing of the seasons or maybe just a time to say thank you to loved ones or for life in general, I want to address many questions and insights from a life spent training for war and training others in business for war. Maybe the insight will give you some peace during this week of saying thank you.

I interview leaders every day either on the phone or in person, I also have spent the past 6 years training leaders to achieve results in areas they thought lost to them. These two questions illuminate a great deal of underlying issues that cripple progress:

  • How do we ?
  • Why is this ?

The fill in the blank part of those questions is irrelevant. Oddly enough the answers and the solutions are equally irrelevant because there are millions of usable answers.

How and why, when leaders or organizations are asking these two questions they are stuck on a plateau of success, or rather as the cliché says they have risen to their level of incompetence.

Problem solving is an art and science to be sure. The art is to resolve quickly what the real issues are. The science is the tactical processes and methods to fix the problem.

How when asked shows three problems. The first issue that asking How unravels is always a leadership issue. The second issue regarding How is a team structure or recruiting issue. The final issue surrounding asking How is a training issue.

Why when asked unravels a completely different set of circumstances. These circumstances take a rather mature mind to resolve and often few consultants want anything to do with it. The issue of Why is always emotional quotient. When you ask Why, you ask it from a place of already reacting emotionally to the problem and your emotion is now in the way of solving it.

The idea of the podcast is to impart some ways we have found to help teams and leaders solve some rather complicated problems. And the first issue with How, as pointed out, is a leadership issue. I didn’t use the word blame. Blame is for children and should always stay in a childish conversation. Or rather it is bomb in the world of politics to keep things unresolved. Blame will never resolve “how to” it will only make things worse. The fact that “How” is a leadership issue isn’t a blame point of view, it is a point of view to focus on the dynamic and foundation of the leader.

A very effective leadership structure is to have a clear articulate Vision Statement, and precise mission statement, and have no more than three direct reports empowered to make decisions and execute. The reason how to is being asking is always because the leader isn’t clear on these three parts of leadership.

And you can try this at home. Your vision statement needs to be 7 words or less. If it is longer than you will always be asking how the hell do we.

Your mission statement needs to answer these three questions: What we do, When we do it, and Where we do it. The more precise, the quicker the team can deal with solving how to. The more flowery the wording, the more you let a lawyer put in jargon the less likely you are to succeed. The 3 direct reports is always the clear point of failure and always the underlying issue of why you are asking How do we ? If you want to be a great leader you simply must not have more than 3 direct reports. Actually you always must have exactly three: an organizer, a sales leader, and a financial leader.

The second issue in Leaders asking how to is misalignment of teams and recruiting. Actually those two are the same bracket. Leaders who don’t form teams around specific markets who don’t know the advantage of target markets and teams always are faced with how do we grow or how do we solve the more problem. Recruiting is always tied to teaming and market teaming. Leaders must have it in their DNA to always be fighting to find the right person for their teams and markets. Always be recruiting and knowing what you are looking for within the market teams you have formed.

The third issue is a point of leadership. Training resolves How to. Training your people to be successful, function on teams, and adjust to the market is the definition of leadership. Training departments are the first things to dry up and suffer neglect. But they should be the primary expense of a business.

Do you as a leader have these issues? Then I bet you are asking How to quite often.

If you are not clear with your vision and don’t have a measurable mission statement and don’t have three committed direct reports then my question is how are you a leader?

If you don’t form teams around specific markets and are not recruiting every day than how are you leading?

If you are not training people to be successful in their jobs, then how are you leading them?

The why question is a challenge. I find it to be the most rewarding aspect of training teams to win or training leaders to win, because mastering emotional reactions is the key to thriving in chaotic environments. It occurred to be in the first year of retirement that few in the business world had any real training or understanding of their emotional quotient other than a book from a Phd. Knowledge and actionable understanding are rarely the same in any field. And where emotion exists knowledge has little value. Everyone knows when people are reacting emotionally, even the person throwing a tantrum or withdrawing due to sadness know they are reactive. But no one seems to be capable of dealing with the emotion.

But here is the point. As long as you are reactive emotionally you will never be capable of solving the problems you face. If losing money makes you frustrated, your emotional frustration will cause the same set of actions again and again. Hence frustration. If you are upset with someone, then being able to team up with them to solve a problem is not possible.

Imagine what would be possible when you get on point as a leader and you learn to master your emotional reactions?

Solving the big how to problems is rather simple. Solving the Why problems is mastery.

So give thanks this week for the struggle. The struggle is worth all the reward.