In 2006, together with two business partners, I started a property company. The company grew exceptionally in its first year. However, in 2007 when the global financial crisis struck, the property business and our company took a major hit. For the next year we encountered an endless number of problems and worked day and night to keep control of the company and our property portfolio. These problems were tough and tiresome, and in the darkest hours we wondered if they would ever end.
We managed to work ourselves out of the problems by never giving up, by facing them head on, instead of ignoring them, and by always looking for new ways to deal with the problems.
In retrospect, the problems and the way we dealt with them became important and valuable experiences, both personally and in business.
In 2014, when the global oil crisis struck, I worked as a senior manager in a major international company within the oil industry. Companies in the oil industry around the world were struck hard with the sudden and brutal drop in new orders.
Through 2015, my management team and I had to downsize from 120 to 45 people. This was a 62% reduction in the staffing, with several exceptionally- skilled people losing their jobs. It was a tough challenge both practically and emotionally. Instead of seeing it as a problem, I decided to see it as the most important and rewarding leadership challenge and experience I had been given so far.
There are not many ways you get to test your leadership skills in a more challenging way than to be responsible for a major downsizing and complete it in a proper and respectful manner. This change of mind-set, which I saw as a unique leadership experience, made me place a high degree of focus, dedication and energy into making the process as fair and good as possible. The downsizing process was inevitable, so the problem was just as real, but by making a positive mental shift and focusing on the things I could still control, I dealt with the problem and process in a much better way, which strengthened me as a person and as a leader.
Challenges and problems are important parts of life that give you experiences, make you learn and help you to become wiser and stronger. Problems make us grow and shape us. The biggest problem people have is that they hope for a life without problems. This is an impossible goal, and would lead to a boring life without character. We will all have problems – small or large – the difference is how we deal with the problems and challenges that occur.
So don’t run away from the problems and challenges you are facing in life. Don’t ignore them or try to hide from them. Face them. Deal with them. The greatest growth in life and the most important lessons you will learn will come when you face and deal with a serious challenge or problem. Regardless of the result, value the experience and personal growth.