The Power of Harnessing Hardship

Rags to riches stories are some of our favorites–from Cinderella to J. K. Rowling. We love to cheer for the underdog. While most of us have never been in “rags”, few of us have escaped hardship somewhere along the way.

Even though none of us like to hear it, the challenges we face, if harnessed effectively, actually become stepping stones to our future success. How to harness hardship? Just follow these guidelines:

H is for Hardship

As an equestrian I grew up with the phrase, “If you fall off, get right back on”. It has been my personal motto as well. Hard times only defeat us if we let them. If instead, we use them as incentive to do better, they can actually be the power behind “growing”–personally or professionally.

Rather than dwell on the problems, focus on how to overcome them.

A is for Amplify

Before we can solve problems or eradicate the hardship we have to understand it. If we are going to get to the other side and prevent the same thing from happening again, use a “fine tooth comb” to study what WILL work.

In business that means we have to get below the surface to study the granular segments of the market, the growth patterns of each product, the trends in customer purchase habits, and unmet needs of customers. If sales are off, knowing what to change before we strike can pay huge dividends.

It avoids the common “throw it against the wall to see what sticks” problem solving method that rarely results in success.

R is for Recognize the Sweet Spot

Finding the “sweet spot” is the source of the horsepower that drives growth. A sweet spot is the intersection of market needs with a business’s unique capabilities. The sweet spot for each company is unique which is why imitation rarely works–differentiation does.

You will know if you have identified the “sweet spot” because the momentum will be much more substantial with much less “drag”. Have you found yours?

N is for Nucleus

Every great growth plan has a focus or a specific concept that will help the business achieve its goals. That nucleus helps center a company, integrating all functions under a common purpose, aligning the activities across the company and serving as a guide for all investment decisions.

E is for Execution

In order to overcome hardship, there needs to be a plan of action. While trial and error can be a valuable technique in some arenas it is generally not the desirable way to grow a business!

Most companies think execution is what they do best–and day to day operations may be well run. There is a significant difference between running a business well and running the right business.

Execution must be aligned with the nucleus of the plan, mapped into a critical path so resources can be load leveled over time and quick wins can be built in to sustain enthusiasm and sustained commitment.

S is for Stimulate

In order to drive growth, a leader must be sure that the employees are inspired and engaged. The greater the clarity about vision, goals, roles, and the trail to be blazed the more likely organizations will be successful. Giving careful thought to how to engage all stakeholders is a critical component of success.

S is for Success

Although it may seem obvious, it is important to define success. What does it look like? How do we know if we achieve it? Does everyone have the same understanding? If we aren’t clear how do we know if we have achieved it?

Stay the course until the goal is achieved or a course correction is declared inevitable. Give everyone the sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing you crossed the finish line!

HARNESS Hardship and Drive Growth and celebrate your own “rags” to riches story!



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