Let’s face it; most scenes throughout the storyline that kept us captivated were because Wonder Woman faced non-stop adversity. From leaving the innocent existence she led on Themyscira and transforming into my favorite superhero, Diana Prince stayed committed to her mission and achieved her vision by turning every barrier into a strategy. With every barrier, she became smarter, faster and more equipped to deal with life-and-death barriers.
It’s pretty clear that the rules for women and men in business, particularly for entrepreneurs, are different. While any entrepreneur will face plenty of barriers along the startup journey, women, who only receive 2% of venture funding on a good day, are getting really good at turning adversity into winning strategies for thriving, not just surviving. Here are three examples of killer strategies you can use to take advantage of the barriers you face.
Focus all of your energy and actions on a specific outcome.
About eight years ago, Shilpa Pherwani, Principal/CEO, IBIS Consulting Group, Inc. found herself in the midst of a crisis. Many of the partners at her firm were retiring and the economy was tanking. Everyone around her warned that tightening corporate belts would result in a significant loss of demand for her company’s diversity & inclusion (D&I) offerings. “I looked at the situation and thought there was no option but to put all my focus and attention in growing the business,” says Pherwani.
Pherwani focused exclusively on revitalizing the business. She and her team used all of their energy to identify new strategies and delivery models that solved D&I challenges in new and scalable ways. Instead of being slowed down by skeptics, Perwani “focused more on people who encouraged me to try new ideas”.
Pherwani’s advice for turning every barrier you face into a killer strategy: don’t let negativity impact action. “I look at barriers as opportunities to learn. The challenges and barriers help me rethink, re-strategize, and re-energize. I get bored when things run too smooth.”
Decide that the obstacle is the path.
By it’s very nature, Globalization Partners Inc. is in the employment risk management business. Operationally, Nicole Sahin, CEO and founder, and her team knock down barriers to entry for local businesses to grow abroad. By employing staff in over 150 countries on behalf of her clients, Globalization Partners significantly minimizing the time it takes to set-up shop and absorbs the regulatory and local best practices needed to do so.
Being able to scale and address the continuously changing landscape of local compliance for 150+ countries, such as the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that mandates adherence in 2018, is daunting and seemingly impossible for a startup. Yet, Sahin’s approach is level-headed, sound, and repeatable. “I often sit down with team members and try to understand a specific issue, to see if there’s a way to alleviate or work around it in the short-term while building a better long-term solution.
Sahin’s advice for turning every barrier you face into a killer strategy: remind yourself that the obstacle you must knock down is the path you must forge. “My team and I remind each other that if we don’t figure it out, someone else will – and our clients should not have to. This motto gives us courage to face the most significant barriers and build solutions together,” says Sahin.
Adopt the mindset of “I can, and I will."
I spend a lot of time looking at current and emerging trends related to leadership. I look for areas of convergence and divergence. Watching Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince navigate through, around, and above obstacles that could derail her mission reminded me of the great work by leadership futurist Edie Weiner, President and CEO of The Future Hunters.
Weiner found that determinants to success have evolved away from being a ‘have’ or a ‘have not’. Instead, those who possess a ‘can’ versus a ‘cannot’ mindset and approach now determine success. While being a ‘have’ may accelerate the journey for the ‘cans’, those who are ‘cans’ but without the access and capital of a ‘have’ will find success although it may take longer.
My advice for turning every barrier you face into a killer strategy: remember that not all barriers deserve the same urgency, energy, or approach. For every barrier you face, determine its likelihood of occurring, implications to your mission with the lens of timing (i.e. will the barrier be an immediate urgency or something to worry about a bit down the road). Then, apply your “can” mindset to pragmatically address barriers that have the biggest and most immediate impact for derailment by bringing in people who can help you get over, around, under, and through the adversity.