Written by: Sam Reynolds
Many people in the corporate world, in firms large or small, have not learned the art of overcoming obstacles. It’s easy to get stuck and focus on what’s wrong or expect the boss to fix things. Or, as the boss, it’s easy to focus on solutions and expect your employees can deal with the problems. It’s the process in the middle — moving from problem to solution — that hinders progress and leaves people stuck.
Over the years, having worked with thousands of individuals in hundreds of different firms, we’ve found that there are five core steps any individual, team or company can take in order to move from “stuck” to a confident path toward a solution.
The SHIFT Model®
The SHIFT Model® was developed based on a powerful belief: the more focused you are on your desired outcome, the more likely it is that you’ll actually achieve it.
S: Stating Your Desired Outcome
People who are stuck cannot often see past how stuck they are. There is too much to do, and not enough time. There aren’t enough resources. The boss is impossible to deal with and won’t negotiate on anything. The industry is shrinking. The financial numbers look bad. These may all be very real and factual things, but stating your desired outcome will encourage you to push through the obstacles and begin carving your path toward a solution.
Instead of trying to just solve for what’s wrong, spend some time developing a clear outline of what would be right. This should be both quantitative and qualitative, so not just, “Twenty percent increases over last year,” but also what sort of qualitative elements would be important. For example: “We want to increase profitability by 20% by hiring five people who are an excellent cultural fit and value our clients. These people will focus on two niche markets and enhance our product sets in these markets to achieve our 20% goal.” The more specific and complete, the clearer the objective becomes.
H: Highlighting Obstacles
Once you know the goal, Highlight the obstacles, and then categorize them. The reality is that things get in the way. In a perfect world, you’d be at your desired outcome right now. But in many companies, management believes it is bad to talk about what’s wrong. If you don’t know what’s in the way, how will you create a plan to overcome the obstacles? This can be a very helpful step to lay out what’s stopping you from being where you need to be; if you do it as a team, it’s almost like a therapy session.
However, once you have the obstacles listed, it is then important to categorize them. What is within your or your team’s control? What’s within your influence? What’s out of your control? List the obstacles in these three categories, and resolve to ignore the ones out of your control.
I: Identifying The Human Factor
Who are the stakeholders in the process? Who do you need to engage and inform? Who might derail what you are doing? What skills, talent, and information do people bring to the solution? What’s missing? Are there interpersonal issues or communication issues that need to be worked out? Most good management processes overlook the one thing that can make any endeavor sink or swim: the people. Take them into account before you lay out your plans.
F: Finding Your Alternatives
There is never one road to get to your end goal. Even if you have to cut a path through the forest or land in a helicopter, there are always multiple ways to arrive at the same place. Take time to brainstorm what you could do. Establish criteria for decision making before you decide which of a number of options will be best for your team. What matters most — financial, employee happiness, ease of implementation, consensus, etc.?
Once you establish the criteria, you need to prioritize them. Do this separately from reviewing the ideas you have brainstormed. You don’t want the criteria to influence your ideas, or the ideas to influence your criteria. Once you know what matters, filter your ideas through the lens of the criteria.
T: Taking Disciplined Action
This is where most great ideas are born and then die without a clear plan of action. It is the who, what, when, how and how much of the planning process. This is where you and your team take the time to figure out what you need to do to get where you need to go. The clearer and more specific the steps, and the more time-bound and specific you can make them, the more likely it is that you will achieve the goal.
Teach your staff and your teams The S.H.I.F.T. Model® and learn how to walk through the process when someone brings you a problem. Your entire firm will improve their leadership skills as a result.
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