The US Marine Corps teaches the infantry troops to say, “Hunting tanks is fun and easy.” Tanks are large, loud, intimidating, fast, deadly machines, but they have vulnerabilities. This is not psychobabble manipulation. The Marines want their troops to shift their thinking from “How can I survive against THAT?” to “I’m a tank hunter, and it’s fun and easy because I know how to be a tank hunter.”
As a leader you will face difficult situations. You might be selling into a declining market, tough competition, delays in products you need, new technology breakthroughs, lack of access to intellectual property you need, budget reductions, and legal proceedings. Often several challenges will stack up together, compounding the perceived difficulty. Employees and volunteers alike grow anxious in these situations. Worry can spiral out of control.
One of the strategies in your leadership toolbox needs to be how to reframe your problem. The message “Hunting tanks is fun and easy” is the most brilliant leadership reframing example I know.
Let me share two other terrific examples that will help reframe your problem.
There’s a legendary story from years back about a new VP at HP in their printer business. HP was recognized for building bullet-proof personal printers, but the division had declining profits. This was in that transition phase where printers became super cheap and most of the profit was in the ink cartridges. On his first day he gathered about a hundred engineers in a room, put one of their latest model printers on the floor, and jumped up and down on it. No damage. The engineers cheered!
He said, “You’re missing my point. It’s over-engineered.”
See how he reframed the problem so the engineers would consider the profit margin in the design?
A few years back the Coca-Cola corporation was losing market share to Pepsi; they were fighting over a fixed population of soda drinkers. In the annual report the Chairman wrote “Our only competition is water.” This was a masterstroke of repositioning their view of the marketplace. Not long after this, soda companies got into the bottled water business and skillfully applied their marketing prowess.
How can you as a leader reframe your problem? Try applying these four approaches:
- Look at a different angle.
- Reverse the roles for the people involved.
- Change the timeline to shorter, longer, or much-longer.
- Convert scary into fun. (Air turbulence or roller coaster ride?)
Learning to reframe your problem is powerful and effective. Use this strategy to transform your future.
What other examples of reframing the problem can you think of?