Is this the right place?

Let’s find out.

My name is Alan Arnett. I’m the Thinking Partner and Coach you need when you are tackling new challenges.

The challenge triangle

New challenges stretch us, whether that’s to do with the urgency and complexity of the situation, the way other people are reacting, or how we handle the pressure we feel.  However experienced we are, it helps to think things through with a neutral observer who can test our thinking, offer new insights and support us making new choices.

I’ve worked in lots of challenging situations – some on purpose, some accidentally – and I’ve been lucky to work with, and learn from, great people who helped me find out what works.  I’m also a tiny bit obsessed with how we make the choices we do under pressure, and how we get better at it.  From big multi-billion business decisions, through complex technology and change projects, down to messy personal situations, the same patterns show up and affect the impact we make.

As a leader you already have your own ways of tackling challenges, otherwise you wouldn’t have got this far. What I can show you is why they work in some situations but not others, with some people and not others, and how to adapt and evolve yourself for the road ahead.

If you’re interested in the kinds of challenges I’ve worked on, check out the Challenges page.

Challenges

Challenges appear in many guises, but there are some which appear again and again – challenges to do with the situation, the people and ourselves. Below are lists of the ones clients have most often asked me to help with over the years.

Think about a challenge you have right now. Check which tags in each column are closest to describing it, and write them down so you have them handy for later.

Situation

  • making mergers work
  • delivering change
  • getting value from tech
  • new products/services
  • key projects
  • restructure
  • external partnerships
  • sales and customers
  • economy/COVID
  • market changes
  • recovery & rebuilding
  • something else?

People

  • new boss
  • new team
  • new peers
  • performance and agility
  • business/team climate
  • trust & collaboration
  • accountability
  • uncertainty and stress
  • creativity/ingenuity
  • problem solving
  • culture
  • something else?

Self

  • new role
  • new responsibilities
  • workload/priorities
  • flexibility/style
  • impact/influence
  • control/letting go
  • authenticity
  • decision making
  • collaborating
  • resilience
  • career
  • something else?

f you want to explore the next stage, click over to the Territory page

The territory

At it’s simplest, the territory of dealing with challenges is about how we see them, how we think about them, and what we choose to do about them.

There’s a lot of evidence now that we don’t see things as they are – we see bits of them through our own filters. We then join the dots to create our own stories about what needs to happen and why. And then we do the thing we feel fits those filters and stories. In other words, we make a lot of stuff up, because it works a lot of the time. The only mistake we make is to believe it’s all true.

As Daniel Kahneman and others have shown, when the situation fits our fast reacting see-think-do sequence, we perform very well. It’s how we get good at things, why we get rewarded and promoted, and how we feel ‘comfortable’ with things. But when we meet a new challenge, we have to do something difficult – release our grip on the way we usually see, think about and do things, so we can experiment with new perspectives, new possibilities and new choices.

And that’s hard. It’s hard because our habits are engrained and feel comfortable, and because it’s hard to see ourselves objectively. What helps is to have tools specifically designed for exploration, some practice in using them, and some guidance about when you need them. The clues I look for are:

  • when I notice what I’m doing makes sense to me, but it’s not having the impact I wanted
  • when I notice people are either not cooperating or actively disagreeing
  • when I notice my instinct is saying it’s time to press pause and reset … and I’m not listening…

When I notice one or more of those things is true (it can often be all three) I’ve developed the habit of pressing pause to explore what’s going on, what direction I want to move things in, and what options I have. It’s become so useful I even named my business after it – The Exploration Habit. At it’s simplest it’s about slowing down the see-think-do sequence, so we’re less controlled by our reactions, and more deliberate about our options and choices. When you’re under pressure to deliver on new challenges, it’s an essential discipline to get better at.

If you’re interested to see how that might work for you, click over to the Map page

A Map

Hopefully this is starting to make sense, but you might need more structure. So here it is. While we work with your filters, stories and actions, we apply them to some very specific questions, based around something I call a challenge map.

The challenge map has 9 boxes, which are simply the 3 components described earlier (situation, people, self), each explored through 3 steps – Here, There, Next.

We cover a lot more detail than this, and we adapt the questions a lot, but this shows you the core principles.

HereThereNext
SituationWhat’s happening?
What’s needed?
What could better look like?
How could the story change?
How else might we solve this?
What would help?
PeopleHow do they see it?
What do they need?
What could be better for them?
How could their story change?
How else might I engage them?
What would help?
SelfHow do I see it?
What do I need?
What could better feel like?
How could my story change?
How else might I approach this?
What would help?
Challenge Map

If you picked out the tags for your challenge previously, try running them through the questions here and see what you get. Find some peace and quiet, and take your time. Once you’ve done that, try running the questions through with someone else. See if they agree with you or not.

If you want help, or just a richer understanding than you can get on your own, drop me a message.

Contact

All progress starts with a conversation. Contact me to ask about:

  • Informal chats to discuss the art and craft of tackling challenges
  • Coaching packages to help you with current or upcoming challenges

  • Building on what you know to be an even better leader

  • Flexible ‘on call’ packages where you can ask me for ad-hoc help to think things through as and when you need it – essentially adding me to your team
  • Tailored interventions to accelerate the impact of things already underway
  • Events, workshops or talks

You can connect with me using the links to Twitter or LinkedIn below, or email me using alan at this web domain.

” We each create our world by what we choose to notice,
creating a world of distinction that makes sense to us. ”
Margaret J. Wheatley

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