Overcoming the Obstacles

One of the most important skills an advisor can give their staff members is the ability to overcome obstacles. It isn’t as simple as “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions!”, though, as many leaders might like.

The skill to identify a problem and figure out how to overcome it isn’t taught in most schools. Fortunately, it can be developed. In too many cases when we run into a wall, or there is a problem we are facing, we see it as an immovable object. But what if we were to identify our obstacles and then take them into account, in order to create a new plan that systematically removes the obstacles?

One of the problems is that we’re taught not to complain. And yet, identifying obstacles can be healthy and cathartic; when it’s done right, it can also open the floodgates to problem solving. All of our lives are about trying to find our way – whether it is around construction traffic to get to work, or to navigate client issues in the office. Problem-solving is a natural thing, but in the workplace, employees often forget how to do it!

To coach your staff to overcome obstacles in your firm, put these three things in place:

(1) Ask them to take some time to identify what’s in the way. What’s preventing them from reaching a desired level of success? Be sure they can define what success looks like, and then ask “What’s in the way?”

(2) Now, very importantly, help them to categorize the obstacles or issues in the way. Which ones are in their complete control? Which are within their sphere of influence? Which are out of their control? Move the obstacles around until they are all in these three lists. Help them to see that most often, fewer obstacles are out of our control entirely than we think.

(3) Now, ask them to look at what they can control or can influence. What plans could they put in place to leverage these can-control areas? How could they remove the obstacle and turn it into an opportunity? What could they do day by day, week by week to minimize the impact of the obstacle?

Sometimes the process of listing the obstacles and categorizing them allows your staff to search for their own answers. Instead of “I’m stuck,” they start to think “How could I …?” Be a leader who acknowledges that there are obstacles to success, and then work with your team to learn problem-solving and help remove them.