Do you remember that email from an upset customer last week? Yes, you knew it was only the beginning, didn't you? You could foresee the tense call with the client, and the internal discussions that would follow. Someone would point fingers. Someone would come up with a bad excuse. Someone will claim it was all a misunderstanding. But in the end, you would be taking quite some shit due to it. You knew all this because you can tell a problem when you see one, and that email smelled like trouble.
We all hate problems. What else? They stress us out. They bring up the worst out of everyone around. They waste our time. We should avoid them like the plague.
No. You are doing it all wrong.
Problems are so essential to a memorable life that, instead of avoiding them, we should be embracing them, looking for them, creating them!
"Knowledge is where problems are," they used to say during my MBA at IESE. Man, it was an eye opener! Let the message sink for a moment: knowledge is better attained through problem management, not through academic studying. Do you really want to learn something? Jump off the papers and into real life, and let yourself be hit by a problem, then is when you really grasp the concept. Want to talk to an expert on any subject? Forget the PowerPoint crafters and the white paper erudites. If you want real help talk to the ones that execute the real thing on a daily basis (and therefore run into daily problems). Problems mean knowledge. If learning is important to you, embrace problems.
Problem solving is the easiest way to improving your credibility. Your credibility balance is crucial for your effectiveness. No credibility translates into zero capacity to influence, to lead, to sell. When you jump into a new position, raising your credibility balance should be top priority. At that point, problem solving becomes your fastest route to success. Whether you are a CEO or an intern, identify a problem, own it and solve it; this will immediately prove your ability to execute, your willingness to help and your commitment to deliver, no matter how insignificant the problem. It just works. If credibility is important for you, look for problems.
All the key decisions in your life can be interpreted as simply choosing what are the next problems you want to face. Whether you are moving abroad, or getting married, or having a child, or accepting that new job opportunity. You are simply jumping into a new set of problems; problems that you find motivating, problems that will improve you. When you manage a business, you set directions that will create new problems that will have to be handled, hoping they will improve the team and raise returns. If progress is of any importance to you, then create problems.
So you know, next time you see that angry email through your inbox, don't hide, don't shy away. Always, always take the wheel and drive that problem out of the way. It will set you apart from the rest and will leave you better off to truly enjoy, as counterintuitive as it may be.
Talk to you on Friday. Cheers.