A wise man once told me that there are two things that make people upset – when they don’t get what they want and when they do get what they want.
Here are two real stories…
I was invited to help an organization that was struggling to survive. They had not made their revenue targets for more than two years. As a result, they had to undergo several cost-cutting initiatives, including letting people go. The lack of investment and reduced headcount meant that the remaining people had to do more work. As a result, people felt overworked, under pressure, anxious and stressed with a poor work/life balance. People were resigned and upset, and as you can imagine employee morale and confidence were low.
When I was introduced to the organization, I spent a few days interviewing people at all levels. Even though there was a general atmosphere of gloom and resignation everyone expressed a yearning for a better, more dynamic, active and exciting future of big change and growth.
Contrast that with the story of another smaller company that was doing well but wanted to grow and got to the next level. They were known in their market as a ‘Tier B player’ who can only sell and deliver smaller size projects. They wanted to change their predicament and reputation and become a ‘Tier A’ player with large-scale projects. They gathered their team, aligned everyone around a bold growth objective and started to pursue this new direction.
Through some bold courage and a lot of hard work, as well as a bit of luck too, they landed a huge project – the biggest in their history – which more than doubled their revenue overnight.
At first, everyone was elated. However, as the weeks and months passed and customer demands started to ramp up things started to change. They couldn’t hire new people, train them and make them productive fast enough.
Over the following months, things were deteriorating internally, as people couldn’t keep up with the workload. The company started to miss important deadlines, which made the customers increasingly frustrated. Some good people who couldn’t take it any longer even jumped ship.
When I came in to help this organization most people were also feeling overworked, under pressure, anxious and stressed with a poor work/life balance. They were wishing for a break, relief, sanity, and stability.
Bold and ambitious people always look for bold and ambitious opportunities, problems and challenges to solve. They wouldn’t have it any other way. If you are one of these people, ask yourself the question: If you had a 9-5 job in which everything worked in a completely smooth, effortless and eventless way, would you be excited about coming to work every day, or would you be bored out of your mind and go elsewhere?
While problems are problems and they are going to feel the same in your day-to-day experience – overwork, lack of life balance, pressure, anxiety, and stress – there is a significant difference between problems that stem from struggle or failure versus those that stem from growth and success.
But, for some reason, we tend to overlook this simple truth. We complain and suffer when things are broken/not working and we have to fix them. We also complain when things are so good that they require us to grow, expand and elevate our leadership and performance in order to keep it up.
So, if you are dealing with fixing an environment that isn’t working don’t think that when things get better you will have fewer problems. You will have different problems but not necessarily smaller ones.
On the other hand, if you are blessed with problems that are associated with growth and success count your blessing and don’t think that things are easier in a status quo environment.
The question is not ‘Will you have problems?’ and the challenge is not ‘How to avoid them’. The actual question is ‘What type of problems do you want to have?’