Transforming Breakdowns into Breakthroughs

By Alicia M. Rodriguez, MA, PCC

All entrepreneurs and small-business owners experience breakdowns in their lives and work. Breakdowns are not ends in themselves. They are symptoms that something in our life is not working, that we are not paying attention. If we view breakdowns as learning opportunities, we can shift from paralysis to action. Here’s how:

1. Pay attention!

Sometimes breakdowns occur because your attention is diverted elsewhere. Become aware of where your attention is best placed at any given time in order to optimize your energy and results.

2. Create a blueprint and follow it.

In creating a plan, you begin to see where the weak links are. You can then prepare for those obstacles and either avoid them or minimize their impact. Use the plan as a guide, calibrating often for the inevitable surprises.

3. Focus.

Typical of our lifestyles is “multi-tasking.” Too often that means doing a lot of things well but without excellence in any one thing. Get clear on your limitations around how much you can actually handle effectively. Delegate the rest or schedule appropriately.

4. Respond, not react.

Taking reflective time on a regular basis allows you to create successful outcomes on purpose and to foresee potential breakdowns. You can then shift from reacting to breakdowns to responding to change.

5. Communicate.

Many breakdowns are due to miscommunication between people or groups of people. Watch your language; say what you mean clearly and with integrity. Develop your listening skills. Be open to multiple communication styles. This will decrease the chances of miscommunications. To effectively communicate, you must realize that we each perceive the world in our own way and you can leverage those differences for greater innovation through openness to multiple perspectives.

6. Center.

When you are centered, you are open to listening to your own wisdom as well as to others. This allows for decision-making aligned with your personal and business integrity. When you are centered, you increase your resiliency; you can become the eye in the storm, less prone to emotional reactions and better able to make informed decisions.

7. Notice shifts.

Often breakdowns signal that it is time to change something. Or you may have already begun a shift or transition, but you haven’t quite realized it. Check in regularly with yourself, with your friends and family, and with your staff so you can seize the opportunities in the shifts.

8. Learn.

Within each breakdown is an opportunity to LEARN. Discover the positive and make sure you use that knowledge to smooth out the future.

9. Re-evaluate.

Breakdowns can illustrate that your past success strategies may no longer be working for your changing environment. Evaluate where you are or where your business is now. Re-work your strategies to reflect new goals or a new environment.

10. Get over it!

Breakdowns are a fact of life. Don’t waste time blaming or over-analyzing. Handle it and move on.

The next time you feel like you are experiencing a breakdown in your life, work or business, ask yourself: What is it that I can learn from this, what is it that is not working, and how can I make modifications to transform the breakdown into a breakthrough?

© 2010, Alicia M. Rodriguez

Alicia M. Rodriguez, MA, PCC, is a Certified Executive and Leadership Coach and “Wisdom Partner” and founder of Sophia Associates, Inc., a leadership development firm offering executive coaching and customized on-demand learning services to companies and organizations.

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