Moving From Challenge to Solution With the New Leadership ABCs

Here today, I’ll outline three steps that will help you use the New Leadership ABCs to move from challenge to solution with your team in a way that encourages more purpose, drive, and autonomy.

Designed to empower your team so that they find ways forward, Challenge to Solution is all about creating ownership.

Whether it’s a short- or long-term issue that you’d like to take on together, I find this versatile tool is easy to implement in three straightforward stages – helping you become a stronger leader while motivating your team.

Ambition: Frame the Challenge

Why does it truly matter?

As we’ve seen in my posts on communication, the way you present your challenge will determine its impact.

  • Using the New Leadership ABCs to present your problem means talking in terms of Ambition, or purpose – your shared, compelling “Why.”

Doing so taps into the real reason that people care, giving you more than just greater engagement in the hunt for answers. Eventually, framing in terms of Ambition will encourage more ownership of the solution by those you lead.

For example…

Your Ambition: To make education possible for poor students on a tight budget, with low-cost books.

Your Challenge: Your operating costs are on the rise, by around 5% a month. It’s time to come up with some more efficient processes to achieve your ambition.

So how can you link this to Ambition?

  • Use “shocking facts” to appeal to people’s emotions, framing your message within your “Why.” Then, invite buy-in.

Here, a great shocking fact might be…

“Each month, our operating costs rise by the price of 3 meals for a poor student. I feel we should change this – what are your views?”

Boundaries: Give and Check

What is the playing field?

Presenting Boundaries, or the B of the New Leadership ABCs, will give people the freedom to be creative while ensuring you’re all on track toward achieving your Ambition.

  • Describe your predetermined boundaries with your team, before consulting with them to establish that both limits – and possibilities – are clear.

At this stage, you may want to be a little flexible if you feel it’s conducive to accomplishing your key ambition together – a little negotiation shouldn’t detract you all from your shared goal.

To gain buy-in, acceptance, and ownership, it’s your job as a leader to take people seriously, while making sure you respect their needs for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness (SCARF).

For example…

Your Boundaries:

– We need to prevent any further rises in operating costs by January.

– At the same time, we cannot switch suppliers unless our new materials are equally eco-friendly.

Coaching: What Coaching Do People Need From You?

How can I support people?

Once you’ve shared your challenge with your team, framed within your Ambition and set out in a clear playing field, you’re in a great place for them to start autonomously developing solutions.

It’s not a bad idea to do a quick check-up before people proceed on their way forward. Here’s a quick checklist that I outline in Mind Growing, and which you can use to gauge others’ collective preparedness.

  1. Are people Aware of your two first New Leadership ABCs – Ambition and Boundaries?
  2. Do they feel Willing to find a way forward with solutions? Are they driven?
  3. Are your teammates Skilled and/or equipped to do so? Do they require resources or coaching?
  4. Do they Dare to do so? Do you feel like they’re ready to tackle any potential, foreseeable obstacles? And how can you help?

While I recommend that you keep an eye on your shared progress by organising follow-ups, you may find that there’s simply no need for you to provide as much active support to your team as you think!

Over To You

This is the first of two valuable tools that stems directly from the New Leadership ABCs, and which you can read more about in Mind Growing.

With Challenge to Solution, you’ll hopefully find a practical, easy-to-implement approach for overcoming problems, decision-making, and innovating that fully respects people’s SCARF needs.

If you’re curious to learn more about getting hands-on with development, you can also read more about Coaching in my previous articles on The Coaching Circle and Team Embedded Development. And of course, I’m always happy to answer any questions you might have directly at marc[at]