Problems I see again and again

Magda straightWhen people find out about Flash Consulting, there are a few common questions they ask, so I’m going to address those. The first one is “Do you see repeats of problems?” The answer is YES. I see a lot of the same problems just wearing different outfits. I’ll break down some of the common ones.

Small business problems are, in some ways, the most fun for me because they usually involve crossing disciplines. Think about it: The small business owner is very good at what they do, but a small business has all kinds of tasks and issues and problems that don’t have anything to do with the core business or talents of the owner. It’s not even reasonable to think that a small business owner would have the slightest idea how to contextualize those issues, let alone solve them. I’ve seen a lot of different business areas, so I can see that a solo-practice lawyer’s problem is about cost accounting and organizational dynamics or that a marketing consultant’s problem is about strategy, or that a small ecommerce business’s problem is about marketing. I’m not inside the business, so I don’t have any blocks about what area of expertise the problem is in.

It’s different for people working in a corporate environment. Most of those external issues that stymie small business owners are performed by someone else, so, in theory, my clients could focus only on their content area and just be awesome. Except that then there are issues of butting up against The Machine (meaning the corporate environment itself) and that’s where the problems are as an individual employee (especially in law and any client-facing positions. Also academia.). And that can feel complicated, especially when you’re trying to account for home, too. The solution to that is to cut down the noise and focus on what your actual long-term priorities in all areas are, then find the intersection of those and just ignore everything else. (“Just”–ha!)

Managers have a different problem, which is doing their own jobs plus trying to figure out what’s going on with the teams they manage. The solution to that is to set up a system with a solid framework for keeping your people on track and in a good feedback loop so you’re not taking time away from your own job to put out management fires, and your people can start working together to help manage as a team. But again, it’s easier for me to see this from the outside and know where to start than it is for someone who’s caught in too much input and too many demands to be able to pull it apart to untangle it.

Another problem I see again and again is people who just can’t force themselves to do something, whether it’s work-related (academics, I’m looking at you) or personal. Even with heaps of motivation, they’re still blocked. The solution is different for each person, but it’s never “Just do it.” (Why would you pay me $250 to tell you just to do it, when you could tell yourself that or download any of 5,000 FB graphics with inspirational slogans for free?)  People (including you) are not stupid or weak or inherently losers. There’s always something behind an inability to act. This is when I listen and read very carefully, ask a lot of followup questions, and use my experience working with parents and kids and my own kids and just being a lover of people and their issues in general to help figure out what’s going on. I’m not a therapist, so I find something that will unstick people through reframing or action first. And then if I’m sensing a pattern that is preventing them from working toward what they want, I point out that pattern with the suggestion that they can learn to change their behavior with the help of a therapist to get what they want consistently. (I love good therapists. More than I love good wine, even.)

The easiest personal problem I get is too much input. I sort it out, find the patterns, present a few options for paths to walk through the noise calmly, and prioritize those paths. A subset of that is people who are doing the wrong job for them, helping them sort out what they want to do next and how to do it without going rogue suddenly.

The final category of problem that I see a lot (and that can cross over the ones I’ve already mentioned) is people feeling guilty about doing or wanting what they really secretly want to do. The solution to that is really easy: I think your ideas are great, ESPECIALLY if they’re not what everyone else is doing. I’ll come up with a plan for you to do this crazy thing you’re afraid to admit you want to do, and that will tell you how much effort is involved. If you’re willing to put in the effort, do it. If you’re not willing to put in the effort, then don’t do it, but know that your idea is valid and it was worth having.

Next time I’ll write about the case I didn’t crack, and the few that I’ve cracked that turned out to be way different from what the client and I thought they were going in.

Find your own solution with me. The how-to and details are at

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