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Say Hello to the Elephants Quadrant Two: Solutions

RSJ founding partner tony rose

This article by Tony A. Rose first appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Business World magazine, a publication by Russell Bedford11057214-rbnewlogobkeyrc International.

We all have elephants – problems, needs or truths that we ignore even though we must face up to them. Often our elephants may be of a professional nature. We may also have personal elephants. In Say Hello to the Elephants I offer a way to confront issues, along with tools to address problems, achieve clarity, and make decisions. I call this Quadrant Thinking. In this, the second of four articles, I present an overview of Quadrant Two: Solutions.

Solutions

In Quadrant One we looked at reaching clarity and how that makes everyday problems manageable. Having achieved clarity and defined your goals you know where you want to go. In Quadrant Two we will look at how you get there: your solutions.

Above all, your solutions must be SMART:

• Specific
• Measurable
• Actionable
• Relevant
• Time-bound

Obstacles are stepping stones that narrow the solution

When people talk about goals they cannot achieve, they usually name a list of obstacles.

By changing your perspective you will begin to see that most obstacles are milestones that represent achievement. If you plan to eliminate obstacles you move one step closer to your goal. In this context, obstacles are not barriers but welcome milestones.

Sausage is subjective

You cannot make a blanket statement such as, ‘I love sausage’. Sausages come in all flavours; depending on individual taste nobody can unequivocally love sausage. This is also true of solutions. Your solutions must suit your tastes. What tastes good to another may not taste good to you.

When you consider solutions to complicated problems with your advisers, be sure to question the solutions and ensure they are the right fit for you. If you understand a solution you will be able to answer these questions:

• What is it?
• How is it applicable?
• Why does it work?
• What can go wrong?
• Who must be involved?
• How much does it cost to implement?
• How much does it cost to sustain?
• What must be done to sustain it?

And make sure your advisers offer multiple solutions because sausage is subjective.

The artichoke theory

When you work towards achieving a certain goal, remember to keep it simple. You should always break the steps down into small, achievable milestones.

The smaller the steps the simpler things get, and the more likely you are to achieve a favourable outcome. I call this the Artichoke Theory. In other words, you should eat an elephant the same way you eat an artichoke: one leaf at a time.

Stop and ask yourself Is what I am doing right now directly related to reaching my main goal? The answer will always be yes if you keep things simple. If the answer is no, you are making things difficult for yourself.

Slow down. You are in a hurry

Once you achieve clarity you will feel a surge of energy to accomplish your goals. But when something is important, you must slow down, focus on the solutions, or risk making rash decisions. Take a deep breath and stay calm. Only then will you have the wherewithal to address obstacles, make rational decisions, and move your plans forward.

The law of unintended consequences

All conduct has unintended consequences. The unintended consequences of negative behaviour are inevitably negative but positive behaviour brings positive unintended consequences.

With clarity, your unintended consequences become strategic by-products of your planned conduct. Strategic by-products are always positive because your planning, the purposefulness of your goals, and the alignment of your goals with your values all create a solid base to which positive things can attach.

Choosing the right trusted advisory team

Regardless of your skills, one thing is certain: you are too close to your own situation to evaluate objectively your whole picture. Finding the right team of advisers will help you define your clarity and solutions.

The ideal adviser is trustworthy, competent, reliable, and team-oriented but these commodities are rare in the real world.

Trust comes in many forms. Fortunately, David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford – authors of The Trusted Adviser – designed a formula to help evaluate and rate a trusted adviser.

Based on a one-to-ten scale, a trusted adviser’s rating is the sum of competence + reliability + intimacy divided by self-orientation. The higher the number the more intensely you will trust your adviser.

Being in control of the process

If you give someone else control they will take control. Although you might rely on various advisers you must sit at the head of the table and raise your hand when you disagree or do not understand.

It is your story, your family, your business, and your goals. When you are clear about where you are going, no-one else can conduct your affairs better than you. No adviser can take that power unless you surrender it. You may not be an expert in your advisers’ areas but you are the expert in the most important area: you.

Managing by gut

Many successful businesses not only employ a team of consultants to help them find the right solutions, they also use specific tools. One such tool is the Kolbe A Index.

Kathy Kolbe developed the Kolbe Wisdom in the 1980s. She understood that many instruments measured intellect (IQ) and the affective mind (personality) but could not find one that measured how people behave when free to be themselves (conative mind).

Most tools try to define what people are not good at and encourage them to do better. Kolbe tells people to concentrate on what they are good at and leverage those strengths.

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Read Say Hello to the Elephants Quadrant One: Clarity

Say Hello to the Elephants Quadrant One: Clarity

RSJ founding partner tony rose

This article by Tony A. Rose first appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Business World magazine, a publication by Russell Bedford11057214-rbnewlogobkeyrc International.

The elephant in the room – English idiom meaning that which all can see but none choose to discuss or confront.

We all have elephants – problems, needs or truths that we ignore even though we must face up to them. Often our elephants may be of a professional nature. We may also have personal elephants. In Say Hello to the Elephants I offer a way to confront issues, along with tools to address problems, achieve clarity, and make decisions. I call this Quadrant Thinking.

Quadrant Thinking

Quadrant Thinking is a four-part process. In a series of four articles I will present an overview of each quadrant.

• Quadrant One: Clarity

Here you will learn about how to think through issues and answer the question: what will this problem look like when it has been perfectly addressed and eliminated? Achieving clarity means answering the 5Ws – who, what, why, when, and where? Only then can you move on to the ‘how’. Quadrant One is strategic by nature.

• Quadrant Two: Solutions

Having a clarified understanding of the 5Ws, you can choose between potential steps to make progress towards the vision and goals you have established. Here the developed solution will be in the context of the clarity you created in Quadrant One. Quadrant Two is tactical by nature.

• Quadrant Three: Implementation

Having identified the vision and goals and the preferred solution, it is time to get it done.

• Quadrant Four: Sustainability

Looking at what has been accomplished, you can see if you achieve the results you were looking for.

Saying hello to your elephants means deciding to confront the obvious problems in your business. It all begins with clarity.

Quadrant One: Clarity

Whether you are planning your day or the next week, month or year, you must identify your purpose clearly. This is the step where you establish the mission, vision, values and goals of any situation.

As a business person you have to make choices every day. Only by achieving clarity will you be able to see your options clearly and make the right choices in the context of these strategic questions. Defining your goals creates the standard by which you can choose from the various alternatives. Goals create clarity but only if they address the ‘why’.

Believe in a bigger future

To have a bigger future you must believe in a bigger future. Be optimistic, be hopeful, and surround yourself with people, situations and opportunities that encourage hope.

Looking forward to something can make the difference between success and failure. Having something to aim for means you set goals that motivate you to get there.

Clarity is the enemy of the status quo

Even with the best intentions you may fail to get there because you don’t know where there is. Clarity is the means by which you clear the hurdles that prevent you from succeeding. Clarity and dealing with the elephants that stand in your way will move you further and further towards where you want to be.

Focus on the goal not the distraction

You can’t achieve clarity if you don’t focus on the goal. Distractions can take the form of people, setbacks, fear of failure, and even fear of success.

• Identify the people holding you back, then ignore them

• Don’t dwell on a setback any longer than is necessary to learn from it

• Understand that everyone has failed at something. Those with a clear vision do not see it as defeat

• Having a clear vision of what success looks like enables you to welcome new challenges, not fear them.

Clarity planning takes effort – and pain too

Reaching clarity is not always easy and it can be painful. However, considering you are often going against the status quo and perhaps working against others’ intentions for you or your company, pain can be a key part of clarity planning and has three knock-on effects:

• You must accept pain as part of the process

• The act of reaching clarity can present you with painful truths

• You must be patient.

Disappointment, frustration and anxiety are all painful but it is up to you whether they stop you from moving forward. When you finally achieve clarity the pain will have been worth it.

Finding your elephants and procrastination

Some of your elephants will be obvious but you may still feel like ignoring them.

Most people procrastinate because they lack clarity of outcome. They don’t know what they want so they don’t know what to do to achieve what they want.

Once you have clarity you can avoid procrastination.

Quadrant Thinking gives you three options:

• Deal with it

• Delegate it

• Schedule it.

Elephants do not go away so deal with them.

Finding your elephants and the decision swamp

When you lack clarity it seems like the harder you try to solve a problem the worse it gets. This is what noted behaviourist Dr Brad Spencer calls the decision swamp.

To stay out of the decision swamp you need to change your thinking. Start by looking at problems as symptoms – what you perceive as a problem is often a symptom of a different problem. Once you are clear on what the problem is you can be clearer about the actions you need to take.

Wielding your strengths

Just as identifying problems is essential to reaching clarity, so is identifying your strengths – the core elements that make you and your business unique.

Strengths give you confidence to do the right thing and avoid walking into traps. Your strengths will help you plan for the future and choose the right path to get you there.

Finding your elephants, even if you do not have an MBA

You need to ask the right questions to see the elephants that stand in your way. Use a SWOT analysis to examine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

By asking the right questions you can work on eliminating fears and threats, and capitalise on strengths and opportunities.

With clarity, solutions become manageable. Once you know what you want you will find it much easier to identify what you need to do to achieve it. We will discuss this further in Quadrant Two: Solutions.

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Read Say Hello to the Elephants Quadrant Two: Solutions