Always Problems

Always Problems

We All Live With “Always Problems”

As unique human beings living and working together, we experience problems. Our problems make it difficult to accomplish our tasks, achieve our desired results or simply connect with others. While some problems can be solved permanently – like learning a new skill to overcome inexperience – there are particularly persistent problems that we experience daily, especially when working with other people. These are “Always Problems” and no matter how much energy goes into solving them, they will always exist because they originate with people. Communication breakdowns, misalignment, fear, doubt, stress, egotism… these are just a few examples of problems that live continuously amongst us. Hide from them or refuse to deal with them and they will grow until they eventually explode. Focus only on them and you will expend all your energy, only to have them return when your guard is down. How do we control the chaos created by our Always Problems?

Something That Can Actually Work for Everyone

There are people and organizations that navigate more smoothly through the sea of Always Problems. They aren’t immune to Always Problems and they aren’t given more hours in the day or more mental energy to subdue them. What’s their secret? They know the “Universals.”  Universals are built around the qualities all people share. They work with individuals and groups, like a team or an entire business, and are the most effective way to keep Always Problems from consuming our time and energy.

Think of the Universals as something that treats the cause, not the symptoms of our Always Problems. Think of them not as a quick fix, but as frameworks you can use to minimize the impact of Always Problems in your life, team and business.

Acting On Always Problems with the Universals

Universal #1: The Three Parts of the Mind

Everyone’s Unique – It’s universal. We all bring something different to the table. So how is our uniqueness helpful in keeping life’s Always Problems under control? We need a framework for understanding our differences and how to use them to our advantage. Have you heard of “conation?” In her work, theorist Kathy Kolbe defines the three parts of the mind. Our cognitive abilities (skills, knowledge, experience, reason, etc.), our affective qualities (values, preferences, attitudes, motivators, etc.) and our conative strengths (our instinct for taking action, the volition that drives us to do things a certain way… our natural mode of operation). Simplified, this is how we think, feel and do.  Kolbe defines and reliably measures how we’re naturally driven to do things. Kathy delivered the missing piece of the human puzzle, and once you have it – Always Problems begin to break down into their cognitive, affective and conative elements. This reframes how we understand people and gets you to the root of the problem more quickly. You can dissect the problem using the three parts of the mind. “Is this problem due to a gap in skill or understanding? (Cognitive) Is this problem a misalignment of values or preferences? (Affective) Or… do we simply have very different ways of doing this? (Conative)”

What if the problem is conative? Kolbe gives us the tools and a system we need to discover conative strengths and use them to our advantage.

But what if the problem you’re dealing with comes down to attitudes, motivation or personal preferences? Then we look to values.

Universal #2: The Core Values

Everyone Believes – It’s universal. Our beliefs form a set of values that are at the center of who we are. These core values exist within each person, and they naturally form within groups like a business.  How can our values help us reduce the effects of life’s Always Problems? First, it’s critical to understand that whether they’re written down or not, your core values not only exist – they influence you greatly. This is true for an individual as well as a business in three distinct ways. Core values set an expectation for how we will interact with the world around us, they differentiate us and connect us to those who share similar values, and they give us direction – guiding the decisions we make. Everything comes back to values. When our problems cloud or confuse – values shine through and give clarity about what needs to happen. Individuals and entire businesses are wise to make their values part of absolutely everything they do so that when a problem arises, they can ask, “If these are our values – how will we handle this problem?”

If the problem is not about different ways of doing things (conative) and not from a misalignment in values (affective) it’s possible that it is due to a lack of understanding or a gap in experience (cognitive). How can you address these problems?

Universal #3: The Leadership Model

Everyone Learns – It’s universal. Processing information and forming meaning happens naturally in a healthy mind, and it’s a process we can each direct and focus. We can decide what to learn… how can that help us manage the disruption caused by life’s Always Problems? We need a framework that helps us prioritize what to learn and identify the gaps in our skills, understanding and experience. A Leadership Model does this by asking, “What must we know? How must we think? What must we be able to do?” Every Leadership Model is unique to the individual or business that uses it and lists exactly what is expected of a “leader” – or someone who mitigates problems. It is difficult for Always Problems to linger or mature when a leader is continually learning and asking, “What happened? Why did it happen? How can we improve?”

If the Always Problem is cognitive – look to your Leadership Model to identify the gap. What new understanding, way of thinking or skill is needed? Your Leadership Model will be critical in defining and reinforcing your “Way.”

Universal #4: The “Way”

Everyone Rises – It’s universal. Rising means defining your unique “Way” of operating and having the discipline to follow it. To an individual, it’s “how” they work best. To a business, it’s getting everyone rowing in the same direction. It’s a unified vision, a common set of tools, a singular approach and a shared language. Your “Way” is a system that creates consistency and conserves energy. How does having a “Way” help you keep life’s Always Problems in check? Your “Way” is how you apply the Universals. Apply them consistently and problems have little hope of persisting, especially in a team setting.

Building Your Universals

You can’t expect to solve life’s Always Problems, but you can build a way of working that prevents them from holding you back. Those who do this well, who rely on universal human truths to build resilience against these problems, give themselves a competitive advantage. Are you using the Universals in your life or business?

  • Are you getting the best out of yourself and others by utilizing their greatest strengths? Do you know about conation?
  • Are your core values authentic and actionable? Are your values present in every program and decision your business makes?
  • Do you have a model for continual growth? Is your business teaching exactly what you expect from your leaders?
  • Are you or your team saving time and energy by getting everyone the same page? Is a unified way of working improving your bottom line?

The Always Problem Action Guide

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