Today we are going to talk about phantom problems. These are problems you believe exist, but don’t. I get this a lot from my clients and you may have a similar issue. You believe you have a specific understanding of the challenge your business faces and you want an answer… now. You want a silver bullet o r magic solution that immediately resolves it. If this sounds familiar, let me suggest that what you believe is the problem isn’t the problem at all. Some common examples will help explain what I mean.
I need a better time management solution. You are looking for a calendaring system, list management system, appointment scheduling system, a new app or a new website that will help manage your behavior or time management. The truth is, this is not really what you need.
It’s not about time management… it’s about priorities. Certain things are more important than other things. For example, how important is breathing to you? What is more important to you than breathing? Well then, by definition everything else is second to breathing. Additionally, how important is eating to you? If breathing is first and eating is second, then all the business tasks are third. If we keep thinking this way and take a look at your consulting business, certain tasks are as important as breathing and eating. That means every other task must come after these. Once you set your priorities, it’s easier to figure out where your time should be spent.
It’s not about time management… it’s about clarity. You have to be clear about what is important to your business and what isn’t. That means you have to separate your thoughts, ideas and strategies; look at them individually and figure out which are most important and mean the most to your business. Ask yourself, “Do I truly understand each element of the problem?” If you are not clear on what the issue is, you are doomed to solving the wrong problem over and over.
It’s not about time management… it’s about panic. You create to-do lists that are so long they intimidate you. You see how much you have to do and it creates panic, anxiety, and stress. You have to flip that. You must be able to look at your to-do list and not be intimidated by its length or what’s on it. As you develop the discipline to look at your tasks in a different way, the scary and uncomfortable emotions will subside.
I need cash, now! The second major point that my clients come to me with quite often is “I need cash, now! I need customers, now! I need money!” I suggest to you that it’s not about the money. For example, what will you do between today and the day when the money arrives? Whatever you do, it has to be something healthy. How do you know your new money is going be spent any differently than your previous money? If you know you made a mistake in the past, how do you make better decisions moving forward? You have to think hard about it. Also, how much money do you really need? How many clients and engagements do you really need? Until you are clear about your need, any new money that comes in the business is likely to be spent just as poorly as the old money.
I can’t trust my employees. Another common discussion I get from my clients is, “My employees don’t do good work. This is a very limited belief about your current employees. You may say, “John Brown is a jerk and nobody likes him.” That may be true, but what is also true is that you hired him! Maybe it is time to let him go. If John Brown is that unhealthy to the environment, he doesn’t belong. The same is true for known underperformers. You need to let them go if you can’t train them to be better. The point is, don’t let your business be subject to a mistake that was made from a hiring perspective. You can fix it!
The real issue is your perspective on the problem. You don’t have an issue with your time, money, or employees. It’s your perspective on these things that has you intimidated. For example, you may be too close to the issue. When you stand too close to an issue you are able to see all the minor details, but you can’t get a wide enough perspective make major business decisions. Talk to an expert, consultant, or coach to provide some feedback and be a mirror to you. When you fully embrace the appropriate perspective you can prioritize the issues that really deserve your attention.
These are all examples of phantom problems. These are problems you believe exist, but don’t. If you as a leader can achieve a different perspective on your own company, you can solve problems more quickly. Push for a clear perspective on the root cause and commit to the behaviors that will resolve the issue. Think hard today about what it is that’s keeping your company from growing. Think about what that real problem is, get help if you need it, and grow your business, like you should.