TSLH #008: 6 Steps To Tackle Any Leadership Challenge

TSLH #008: 6 Steps To Tackle Any Leadership Challenge

Read time: 4 minutes


Life is full of challenges. So is work and your role as a leader.

In my career, I have witnessed countless leaders and co-workers use 2 main paths to deal with challenges:

  1. The path to doom: Feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, being overcome by their self-limiting beliefs about their role and what they should do or not do. In most cases, this leads to bad decisions after bad decisions, resulting in the leader’s ultimate failure to address the challenge.
  2. The path to reason: Being self-aware of one’s role, responsibilities, capabilities, skills or lack thereof, understanding the environment surrounding them and the many changes impacting that environment. In such cases, leaders make the most optimal decisions (not always the right ones), and more often than not, this results in addressing the challenge in a way or another.

You don’t need my newsletter to walk down the path to doom. And I don’t wish you to spend anytime here.

Instead, I’ll show you how you can embrace the path to reason and tackle any leadership challenge by following 6 steps, using an example in my career.

My real-life example is taking over a team that was plagued with lots of performance challenges and that was failing at doing their work.

Be ready at any time. This is about being fit physically and mentally for any challenge that you will face in your leadership role.

Being a leader means that you owe it to yourself to be as sharp as you can. This means you need to stay healthy and have a good discipline that will allow you to be at your best when you need it. This means you need to be a constant learner, stay curious, get feedback from others so that when a particular challenge presents itself to you, you are not completely at a loss.

This is the best time to prepare yourself for any upcoming challenge: For instance, if you know that you lack a particular skill that may be critical for you in the future, do something about it. Either learn that skill or make sure you surround yourself with people who master it.

What I did: I hired a coach to identify any blind spot in my analysis of the situation and my new role; I read books about onboarding; I discussed with my mentor about his own experience of taking on an ailing team.

Keep your team engaged. You will never address any challenge alone. In the complex word we live in, this is just an impossible task. You will need your team and any person with whom you have built strong relationships and alliances to help.

This is where you will spend the vast majority of your time as a leader, in order to build mutual trust, to get people engaged and accountable, to prove your credibility others. Your efforts will pay whenever you face a challenge and you need to leverage the people on the team or other co-workers to get their help and support.

What I did: Instead of focusing on the task of turning around the team, I discussed a lot with the team even before taking on my new role. I understood from them what the pain points were and what they needed from me to stay engaged. From them on, I designed the plan for my initial weeks on the job, to ensure my team stays engaged as I start in the role.

Listen and follow advice. There is no way that you can know everything there is to know when a challenge presents itself to you. If you think you do, you need to check your ego for hubris. Once you realize you don’t know everything, this is OK really.

Now, ask for feedback, especially in areas where you know nothing. You have to listen to other people’s opinions and ideas, and open yourself to new perspectives of seeing the challenge. This is the best way for you to (1) get the help you need from other people, and (2) find the optimal solution to address the challenge. This will not always ensure the best solution is implemented. This will however ensure that the people who know have been consulted and have given you their feedback. Then, as the leader, you have to make the decision.

What I did: Although I knew how the company worked, what processes were, I was also very aware of the fact that I did not know how that team in particular worked and how their situation differed from that of other teams in the company. I therefore listened to them a lot, went to their desks to see what they were doing, did my best to understand their job and their tasks. I asked them to help me identify their pain points and what an optimal solution would look like. After that, I knew what I needed to do or to decide in order to make it happen.

Know what you don’t know. Your ability to tackle any challenge will be increased significantly if you are aware of what you don’t know. Vulnerability in such cases turns into a big strength, because this is when you ask for help or say “I don’t know”. This creates mutual trust with co-workers or the people on the team, and this creates engagement and accountability to help you tackle the challenge.

Again, a great way to know whether you know or don’t know is to ask. Even when you’re certain about something, it never hurts to say something like “I believe this is the answer, but I don’t know. What do you think?” and then consider others’ responses in order to better analyze the challenge and any response you want to implement.

What I did: With my challenge, I made it clear from day 1 that I knew nothing about the way the people on the team worked, or what specific challenge they had (they were coming to our company through an acquisition). I told them that I need to learn from them, that it would be the best way for me to help them.

Let go of control. What I mean here is that in order to tackle any challenge in the most optimal way, you need to be crystal clear about the things you have control upon and the things you don’t. If you are not clear about that, chances are that you will waste time and resources working on things or fixing things that you can’t control and that will therefore have no impact on the challenge you want to address.

An easy tool to use here – which I have described a couple of times in this newsletter already – is something I call the circles of control. What I suggest you do anytime you need to tackle a challenge is to draw 2 concentric circles (i.e., one big circle and inside it, a smaller circle).

The inner circle is home to everything you control as it relates to that challenge. This could be your mood, emotions, the people on the team, access to specific resources, a process you own, etc.

The outer circle is home to everything you don’t control as it relates to that challenge. It could be a decision from the company, access to a budget, etc.

Once you have worked on your circles of control, just make sure you focus your energy solving the challenge leveraging those things you have control upon.

What I did: In my situation, I knew I did not have control on corporate processes or IT tools. However I had control on talking with the teams managing the processes. Because of that, I could discuss with them and ask for some small iterations of specific processes so that my team’s pain points were removed.

Be aware of self-limiting beliefs. Very often, when faced with a challenge, many leaders experience a variation of the impostor syndrome: They feel inadequate, stressed, they fear being judged on their ability to address the challenge. This is not a comfortable place to be.

Again, self-awareness and preparation is very helpful here. This means you need to understand what your self-limiting beliefs are. You need to know what your critical inner-voices may tell you at times to discourage you from stepping up and do what it is you need to do as a leader.

This is OK to have these voices and beliefs. What is not OK as a leader is not to ready to temporarily defeat them, so you can work on the task ahead. The best way to prepare for this is to have a structure or process in place that you can use when tackling your challenge to ensure you stay focused on a task and not on the critic voices or beliefs that are trying to distract you.

What I did: One of my strong self-limiting beliefs is that I can’t talk in front of an audience. Knowing that I needed to talk to my new team (then more than 50 people) felt scary, stressful, and I was very anxious about doing it. What I did is to prepare to defeat this self-limiting belief by connecting to an event that was important to me and where I felt at my best. I wrote down a few keywords about that event on my notes for my presentation to my team. And I kept watching these words as I spoke. It helped me remove the stress and the critic voices and I could deliver my first talk to the team in a way that projected more assertiveness and confidence.


Remember, tackling any challenge in life or at work starts with a fundamental requirement: You need to be self-aware. Self-awareness gives you clarity about what you know and what you don’t know, about your strengths and your self-limiting beliefs. Equipped with this knowledge, you can tap into the wisdom of your team or co-workers and find the most optimal solutions to any challenge.

Try this and let me know how it worked for you. I’ll see you next Saturday!

TL; DR (Too Long, Did not Read)

6 steps to tackling any challenge

  1. Be ready at any time
  2. Keep your team engaged
  3. Listen and follow advice
  4. Know what you don’t know
  5. Let go of control
  6. Be aware of self-limiting beliefs

Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

1️⃣ Work 1-1 with me to step up as the authentic leader you aspire to be.

2️⃣ Hire me to help you build a high-performing team.

3️⃣ Start with my affordable digital courses on Mastering Difficult Conversations for Leaders and Goal Setting