A is for Anticipating Challenges

Ligthening Ahead

Peak performers are positive realists. They have a positive attitude, but they are also realistic. They have a Plan A, but they also have Plans B, C and D.

Such people focus on their picture of success, but also anticipate potential difficulties. They plan to prevent these difficulties happening. But they also plan how to manage such issues if, despite their efforts, the difficulties do happen.

Looking back on your own life, can you recall a time when you anticipated a potentially difficult challenge? You may have been building a family, taking a step in your career, leading a team or making a key decision.

What did you do to anticipate the challenge? How did you aim to prevent any predictable difficulties? How did you manage the difficulties if, despite everything, they did occur?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Looking back on your life, this invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you anticipated a potentially difficult challenge and dealt with it successfully.

Describe the specific things you did to prevent or manage the potentially difficult challenge successfully.

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Imagine you lead a team. You aim to implement the right strategy with the right people in the right way. You also want to educate your people to anticipate and manage potentially difficult challenges successfully.

There are many tools for making this happen. Here is one approach that I have used with teams who work in therapy programmes, education, business and sports. You will, of course, have your own approach to helping people to anticipate challenges.

Clarify the strategies for
achieving the picture of success

Gather people together and remind them of the big picture. You may cover some of the following themes.

The What: The real results the team aims to achieve – the picture of success.

The Why: The benefits of achieving the picture of success.

The How: The strategies the team can follow to give itself the greatest chance of success.

The Who: The roles that each person will play – and the spirit they will demonstrate – when working to achieve the picture of success.

The When: The action plan – including the road map and milestones – for achieving the picture of success.

You may want to summarise the ‘What’ and the ‘How’ in the following exercise.

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Clarify the potentially
difficult challenges

Gather people together. Invite them to brainstorm all the possible difficult challenges the team may face when working towards the picture of success.

Imagine the team works in business. Some difficult challenges could include the following.

Losing key customers.
Being hit by changes in the market.
Being beaten by new competitors that produce new technology.
Failing to deliver because of outdated IT systems.
Losing good employees.
Failing to hit targets because of events beyond the team’s control.
People feeling overworked.
Being hit by cuts in resources.
Getting poor service from suppliers.
Being so successful that the team can’t provide good service.

Imagine the team competes in sports. Some difficult challenges could include the following.

Losing injured players.
Being hit by suspensions to key players.
Suffering from poor decisions made by officials.
Failing to perform when pursuing Plan A or Plan B.
Losing a succession of matches.
Being affected by players having problems in their personal lives.
Being tired from exhausting journeys to away matches.
Facing racism when playing away.
Being successful but then not being able to deal with the pressure when leading the league.

If you wish, invite people to complete the following exercise.

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Clarify how to prevent the potentially
difficult challenges happening but, if they
do occur, how to manage these successfully

Gather people together. Looking at the challenges that may occur, rank these in terms of the likelihood of these happening.

Invite people to choose which challenge they would each like to explore. Create small teams to tackle each of these themes.

Ask each small team to spend half an hour focusing on their chosen topic. They are then to present back their suggestions under the following headings.

The specific things we can do to prevent the difficult challenge happening.

The specific things we can do to manage the difficult challenge successfully if, despite our best effort, it does happen.

Invite each small team to do the following exercise.

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Clarify the other things the team can do to
increase the chances of achieving success

You will now have many ideas for preventing and managing potentially difficult challenges. These can be integrated into the team’s action plan for achieving its goals.

During the discussion about the challenges people sometimes suggest other ideas for improving the team’s performance. You can give them an opportunity to summarise these suggestions.

If you wish, conclude the session on a high note. Invite people to clarify the other things the team can do to increase its chances of achieving success. Promise to get back to people with the updated action plan. This will include getting some early wins.

The team can then meet every week to clarify what it has delivered in the past week and what it plans to deliver in the next week. This will maintain the momentum on the way towards achieving the picture of success.

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