The professor asked us about our working environment. We spent five minutes outlining all our challenges. The constrained budget, compressed timelines, suppliers failing to deliver on the requirements, and a myriad of other problems.
This discussion was during the first class of an executive crash course at a top-tier business school. It felt good to get this off our collective chest, as we shared the common difficulties. Knowing the school's reputation, we were counting on the answers to all our problems.
The professor paused and asked, "how can you use these constraints to your advantage?"
The question stripped us of our victimhood claim.
We were a class of big boys and girls. If our laundry list of issues is part of our everyday lives, then we should expect these disruptions and find creative ways to use the boundaries to our advantage.
Entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuck encourages us to own our shortcomings because only then can we go on the offense. These weaknesses include both our own and our sub-optimal circumstances.
I have been experimenting with a gluten-free diet to troubleshoot health issues. The constraint has been helpful. When tempted with a slice of delectable coffee cake after breakfast or a chocolate eclair after dinner, I refuse. I don't want to compromise the experiment and default to an external source of willpower. This limitation helps my pants to fit.
If the budgets are perpetually short, kids never get up on time, and management always pushes for the overly optimistic schedule, own the circumstance, and seize the offensive position.
Our greatest human strength is our capacity to think. We contribute value through our ability to create and innovate. These are precisely the reasons we have the eight pound mass between our ears. Thinking is hard and will cause your brain to sweat, but your contribution is needed.
What time do you set aside to think?
How can you flip a defensive situation into an offensive circumstance?
What struggle has bogged you down and what is a creative way to break the cycle? Who can you reach out to for help?
How can you energize your team to engage in finding a new solution?