How you master challenges successfully

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You might one day find yourself in a situation where you have the feeling that you appear rather small in comparison to the challenge you are facing. Similar to hanging along a steep cliff challenges might sometimes be a bit overwhelming for you.

In such a situation it is helpful to take a step back and to reflect your current situation, looking at the options you have. The ALPAN formula might help you with that.

Analyze: your situation
Pick a few tools to investigate the situation you are in from a rather rational point of view. Analysis usually consists of phases such as topic definition > problem description > cause analysis > alternative solutions. In particular, when the challenge you are facing has a sense of “Oh my god!” it is very useful to take a deep breath and to start with a rational analysis (do remember, in emotional states humans often make mistakes).
A friend of mine once felt that he did not get the monetary success that he really deserved. Using the business model “canvas model” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Model_Canvas) helped him realize that his strategy to approach the market was not helpful in making enough money to get wealthy and being able to invest a little. As a consequence, he modified a few of his usual job activities, picked different segments that he wanted to work in with customers and, in addition, set up a different payment model for his clients. Today, he is quite a successful business man, with a great reputation and apparently a substantial income.

Literature: Read and learn
Try to find more information that may help you understand the challenge better. Pick an article, a book, a magazine, a website that provides you more information on the topic so that you have more information available which will improve your decision-making.

When I first heard of coaching as a profession, years ago, I was instantly enthusiastic about it. I knew then that I also wanted to become a coach. However, I did not have the tools, the skills, or the mental attitude to do this job. So I did what I often do, when I want to acquire a new skill: I started reading a lot on the subject. Having read much about coaching enabled me to learn more about where I could start educating myself which I did in a next step.

Perspective: Change yours
If an inter-personal conflict is involved, you might want to change the perspective explicitly. Walk “in the moccasins of your fellow man”. If the challenge basically involves just yourself, try a new perspective by asking circular questions like “If I was person XY and would look down on me in this challenging situation, what would I recommend?”.
You might want to use the approach of “inner mentoring”, visualizing a few great personalities that inspire you and using these as “inner consultants” for yourself. For example, you could imagine what it would be like to sit at a campfire together with your “inner mentor”. Having told him your challenging story, how would he respond? What advice would he give you?

A mentee of mine chose her deceased uncle as an inner mentor she can always “carry” with her and consult in case she faces a significant decision to be made.

In a world with a growing number of power egos and humans with a certain narcissistic attitude the person makes a difference that is capable of consciously changing a perspective.
Do you want to make a difference?

Acquire: helpful knowledge
Think of capabilities that are required to master the situation. Start acquiring these abilities in order to have the proper knowledge at hand that is needed to overcome your obstacle in focus.

King George VI once had a vicious stammer and therefore dreaded public speaking strongly. However, at a certain point in his reign and by the help of speech-therapist Lionel Logue he acquired quite helpful techniques that enabled him to speak more freely in front of large crowds resulting in a higher popularity among the British people.

New: Do things differently
Look for patterns that you have used so far that have not lead to a solution. Then design and implement a different pattern of behavior. Try something new.
Trying to invent the light bulb, Thomas Edison was once asked: “How does it feel to have failed a thousand times?”. Edison responded: “I have not failed, I just know by now a thousand ways of how not to design a light bulb.”

In a book by John Strelecky (http://www.whycafe.com/) the main character John finds a café in the middle of nowhere, in a desert. Meeting different people in this café and talking to them, John finds out that the life he has lived so far did not really make him happy. As a consequence, John made drastic changes in his life, leaving him much more happy and fulfilled.

Albert Einstein once stated that problems cannot be solved in the same way they were created. In this sense, I invite you to try a new and fresh approach to overcome an obstacle in your life.

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Please share your helpful coping strategies with us, what helps you handling challenges successfully?

Changing the DNA in organizations

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Culture in organizations is something that is usually difficult to grasp, however, has a great impact on everyday lives of each member of a company.

What is culture?
According to Andrew D. Brown, author of “Organizational culture”, Organization culture is the pattern of beliefs, values and learned ways of coping with experience that have developed during the course of an organization’s history. This means that for culture:

  • It is a set of accepted values, assumptions and shared common experiences.
  • It is something we learn and unconsciously acquire. It is not inherited.
  • It dictates behavior, etiquette, manners and protocol.

Getting more specific, we can say about culture:

  • It influences how we act and respond.
  • It is “how we do/say things around here.”
  • It is communication: how people create, send, process and interpret information.

Culture manifests itself in aspects of an organization like:

  • Values (qualities considered worthwhile like “solidarity”)
  • Beliefs (assumptions what is good for the business and how to act in the best manner)
  • Climate (feeling or atmosphere, noticeable in the physical layout of work spaces and how employees act with each other)
  • Norms (standards and rules)
  • Symbols (icons, stories, rituals and traditions that embody strong messages about what is important)
  • Philosophy (Stated policies and ideologies that guide actions in relation to shareholders, employees and customers).

How could culture be analyzed?
You could conduct interviews or survey-based interrogations considering the above mentioned manifestations of a culture within an organizations. Alternatively, you could make use of a quick culture analysis that was created by Ed Schein, a former MIT professor in the fields of career development and organization culture. Schein stated that there are three crucial aspects when it comes to understand more of a culture an organization currently has. You have to look out for three specific elements:

  • Membership: What is to be done, how to think, act and behave to be a part of this organization?
  • Taboos: What is a “no go” in this culture, what should one not say or do, what leads to sanctions or even to exclusion?
  • Success and promotion: What needs to be done to stick out and to obtain
    a good reputation in this organization, to make a career and to probably become an internal “hero”?

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Ask these questions to a number of different employees within the organization and across different hierarchy levels. Start by inviting people to a few individual interviews, consolidate some of the insights you have gathered and then conduct a few workshops with small groups of employees to deepen your understanding of the organization’s culture.

How could culture be changed?
Well, anyone who has tried doing this, may have found out that quick fixes are generally not working in this area of change management.
It might be helpful to focus more on the aspects of what you can see and feel in regards to culture interventions: influencing people’s behaviour. Leandro Herrero, author of “Viral change” gives us a number of tips on what to do in order to change an organization’s culture via the behaviour of employees:

  • Think of „culture“ as a point of destination (once we have these behaviours established, we will have that culture).
  • Think of culture as a point of departure, when you are visualizing a future: imagine that we have a culture of X where people behave like A, B, C.
  • Think short-term: which behavioural changes can be made now to start triggering „the infection“?
  • When you describe your culture (to your peers, staff, external world) use any labels you feel appropriate, but make sure to attach the behaviours behind those labels.
  • Put behaviours before processes. To achieve change, focus your energy on behavioural change, not process change. Let behaviours, not processes, drive the „new culture“.
  • Spot any „new routines“, desirable or undesirable, created via tipping points and try to understand the viral network behind them.

And now it’s your turn:
Please let me and others know: What cultural challenges are you currently facing? And what do you plan or already do to bring culture change about?
I look forward to your feedback!